THE United States Embassy in Lesotho, through its US Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund, awarded six schools and one training centre with grants worth $54 000 (about M655 000) on Thursday at the American embassy in Maseru.
The US Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund provides grants to community groups in Lesotho that are working to improve the basic economic and social conditions of their villages or communities. It funds such projects as classroom construction, classroom roofing, the construction of community facilities like health clinics and community centres as well as boreholes that provide safe drinking water to communities. Grants are awarded once each year to projects which demonstrate “local initiative and self-sustainability”.
Grants are usually awarded in the range of $3 000-$6 000 and must be completed within one year. Each community group awarded a grant provides a cash or in-kind contribution equivalent to 10 percent of the total cost of the project.
This year, six schools and one training centre benefited from the grant. Leribe Agricultural Skills Training Centre received M61 000 for an instructional layers project, Moselinyane Primary School in Leribe received M94 000 for building classrooms, Moyeni Primary School in Quthing received M105 000 for building pit latrines, Soloane Primary School in Butha Buthe received M100 000 for classrooms and Thaba-Ntšo LEC Primary School in Mohale’s-Hoek received M111 000 for building classrooms.
Thabeng High School in Maseru received M78 000 for a science lab roof replacement and water installation while Tšila-Ntšo Primary School in Mokhotlong received a classrooms grant of M106 000.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Ambassador Matthew Harrington said the funds would go a long way in improving the learning and working conditions for both students and teachers.
“I am proud to say that the US Embassy in Maseru has supported local community organisations and schools across Lesotho for more than 40 years,” said Ambassador Harrington.
“These funds have enabled many Basotho communities across all 10 districts to improve their socio-economic conditions. These projects — one of many US assistance programmes here — are testament to the strong ties between the people of the United States and the Basotho people, and our shared commitment to building a prosperous future for all Basotho.”
He attributed the success of the programme over the years to the “buy-in and commitment from the communities”.
“Once awarded a grant, the organisation or school is required to contribute at least 10 percent of the amount of the award in funding, labour, or materials,” Ambassador Harrington noted.
“This ensures that community members are part of making a difference with these funds, and it is why these projects succeed.
“I know these projects will have a tremendous, positive impact for the students and teachers, and for their communities.”
The ambassador also urged the recipients to use the funds for what they were intended for.
“The funding for this programme has been made possible by the generosity of the American people, and one of my most important responsibilities is making sure that the American people’s assistance is well spent and has a positive impact,” said Ambassador Harrington.
“These are not blank cheques. They are funds that you all pledge to manage professionally, using good accounting practices, submitting reports as required and scrupulously documenting every expense.”
Speaking on behalf of the recipients, Thabeng High School teacher, Mpeoane Mokokomali, expressed gratitude for the American government’s initiative, adding that they were elated their dream had finally become a reality.
“Our task as teachers is to mould the children who are the future of this country. However, the limited resources made the task all the more difficult,” said Ms Mokokomali.
“With these grants from the US, we will have to work hard to ensure the funds are channeled towards their intended objectives.”
In her remarks, Education and Training Minister Mahali Phamotse said the assistance was timely since it had come at a time when the ministry was already inundated with requests from various schools for infrastructural improvement funding.
The need was also compounded, she said, by the increased enrolments after measures were put in place to encourage parents to send their children to school.
Resultantly, Dr Phamotse said demand was surpassing the available classrooms which negatively affected the quality of education.
“The inadequate facilities for science teaching constitutes one of the main reasons for Lesotho’s poor performance in mathematics and science, a factor which is also often blamed for the escalation of unemployment in the country,” she said.
“Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Education and Training is indeed gratified to witness this token of goodwill from His Excellency’s office.”
Dr Phamotse continued: “This assistance speaks volumes about the level of friendship between the two nations.
“We are indeed pleased to note that the US is always by our side whenever we need assistance. As the old adage goes; ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. Please convey these sentiments to the government of the United States of America.”
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