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USA rescues Setibing learners

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE United States ambassador, Rebecca Gonzales recently handed over a three-roomed teaching block at the St Philomena Primary School in Setibing, a rural village north east of Maseru.

The teaching block was reconstructed by American military personnel who are stationed in Pretoria, South Africa after it was blown away by a storm in 2007.

From that time onwards, teachers were forced to merge classes and accommodate learners in different grades in one room. This made teaching difficult as the learners were at different levels with different learning requirements. On extremely hot summer days, teachers were often forced to conduct lessons outside where they exposed to weather elements.

The repair of the classroom block was a long time coming and this has made the teaching staff all the more grateful to the American military personnel whose generous gesture has out them out of their 12 year-long misery.

One of the teachers, ‘Maselloane Mofosi, said they were relieved that they could finally teach in a proper classroom.

“It is a huge relief because the past 12 years have been very difficult for us,” Mr Mofosi said.

“Teaching was a nightmare as the rooms were congested with learners from different grades. Some days we had to conduct lessons outside to make room for other activities such as tests or examinations. This compromised our work and our results were very bad,” said Ms Mofosi.

The principal, Lekhannoe Mathaha thanked the US government and expressed hope that the learners would be motivated to do better.

He however, said the school still faced numerous challenges including teacher shortages.

He said there were only five teachers to serve 133 learners. This created a situation where the few teachers were forced to juggle between classes, making it difficult for them to attend to each student as demanded by the new curriculum.

“We desperately are short of teachers. We have pleaded with the authorities to provide more teachers to no avail. Our learners’ population might seem small but we are too few to give the required attention to each learner as required by the new curriculum. This has impacted on our performance,” Mr Mathaha said.

He said the geographical location of the school, which was surrounded by the Makhaleng River, resulted in high absenteeism particularly during the rainy season when the river was flooded.

A makeshift footbridge that was constructed by Mr Mathaha and some of the learners was swept away by torrential rains leaving the teachers and learners to negotiate their way through the raging river.

“We have begged so many times but in vain that those in power should build us access bridges on either side of the school to make the school accessible to students. Some children are forced to swim their way into the school yard. This means they miss school on rainy days when the river is flooded. In winter when the water is icy, younger students miss school as well,” he said.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, the US ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales said the upgraded classroom facilities were the result of her country’s aims of assisting Lesotho to improve the quality of education.

“Providing quality education is the very best gift we can give to children and the youth. In school, ideas are generated, friendships are formed, citizens are educated and the foundation for future prosperity is laid. I am especially proud that this project has been made possible by the US military. Those of you who have had the privilege of knowing or working with members of the US military will recognise quickly the spirit of collaboration and dedication that made this project possible,” Ms Gonzales said.

Ms Gonzales said the construction of the classrooms at St Philomena Primary School and the establishment of a primary and secondary school in Mantšonyane by business mogul Sam Matekane was an indication of the commitment to the provision of quality education.

“A few weeks ago I attended the opening of a primary and secondary school in Mantšonyane that was established by Ntate Sam Matekane and today we are here celebrating a new facility constructed jointly through our efforts. To participate in these events back to back reinforces to me that Americans and Basotho share a very important value and that is education.

“As the US Ambassador I am very proud of our education and exchange programmes like Fulbright and Yali and our partnership with the Ministry of Education through the Peace Corps- all of which are vital aspects of our contribution to the future of Lesotho.

“These projects and programmes help communities construct schools, foot bridges and hygiene facilities all around the country. I note that if pressing economic concerns or social customs prevent a boy or a girl from attending school, then it is no surprise that individual child will not grow up to reach his or her full potential as a person and as a citizen,” ,” Ms Gonzales said.



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