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We don’t value education



The best and fastest way to determine whether citizens of a country are okay upstairs is to observe the upkeep of schools in and around the city and countryside. If a city has clean schools that are well kept, it serves as a good indication that citizens of that country, city or town value education and the future of their kids. The closest examples are schools in small towns that I’ve recently visited such as Cradock and Burgersdorp, in the Eastern Cape. Very clean and well kept schools! On the contrary, if schools are in a derelict state and look like a pigs-sty like the ones found in Maseru and Lesotho in general, it gives an indication that the citizens and parents do not value education and the future of their kids. Education should come first before everything. Even before fancy shoes (Florsheim), classy cars (Benz le Prado), tasty hotel food, comfortable offices that look like hotel rooms (e.g. Ministers offices) and overseas trips. Education is a very powerful social investment tool to bridge poverty. However, if a country chooses not to invest in education adequately, it will forever be stuck in the poverty trap because its citizens won’t have means of survival and will not be empowered enough to improve their lives. Take a look at the young people roaming around the Maseru Bus Stop area. I actually want to touch on education this week, as it has become a topic that is very close to my heart. I’m all about development, development, development! However, one thing that I’ve realised is that for a country to develop, it needs a nation that has a certain level of education. What do I mean? A country with a relatively high level of education will develop much faster than one with low levels of education. This has become evident with the current state of Lesotho with its rampant unemployment. After reading Dr. Maqutu’s opinion piece that was published about two weeks ago, one gets to appreciate the mess our education system is in. It’s a bloody mess! Dr. Maqutu highlighted so many issues that need our close attention but one that grabbed my attention is the quality of teachers our country is producing. This is a classic case of garbage in, garbage out. But where are our priorities as a country? You know, when the Minister of Foreign affairs requested a budget approval of something like 431 million Maloti from parliament, she indicated that a chunk (about 90%) of the 431 million Maloti budget would go to embassies. So, that means about 387 million Maloti will be allocated to embassies. 387 million Maloti! Do you know what that means? It means we are flushing 387 million Maloti down the toilet drain because it is destined to be eaten. But how much are we allocating to our institutions of higher learning? Let’s take Roma (NUL) for instance. I understand that the Lesotho government has been reducing the budget support/subvention to NUL from 100 million to about 75 million Maloti. Some people even claim that it has now gone down to 65 million Maloti. 65 million Maloti subvention for a National University and 387 million Maloti for embassies! Athe bo Machabeng College and Maseru Prep receive nothing from a government that claims to be serious about education. Hence the reason Machabeng College lost its international school accreditation/ status because of lack of budget support! If a school cannot attract international teaching staff (expatriate staff), how will the institution be accredited to meet international standards? Feela kannete, ke bona ekare re se re hlanya morao tjena. Our actions have become so abnormal. What am I talking about? I’ve recently learnt that Machabeng College has lost accreditation that gives it an international school status. The one and only international high school loses accreditation and we decide to sweep the issue under the carpet. And it’s life as normal? What does the principal have to say about this? What about the Minister of Education or the PS? My heart is bleeding. Pelo eaka e lutla mali joalo ka ea Ntate Mokhothu ha a llela taemane tsa Lesotho ( my heart bleeds just as Ntate Mokhothu cries for Lesotho’s diamonds). Are we really serious about the education of our future generation? Do our leaders realise the effort it took to establish Machabeng High School in the late 70’s for it to be a recognised and accredited as an international school? And the effort it took for Dr Mokete to mobilise scarce resources to build the only international high school in the country? The same institution is not given budget support and we have people that claim to be serious about education? Aikh’ona! I think this is a topic that needs our outmost attention and needs to be discussed with open hearts and minds. Look at the Lesotho College of Education (LCE). A classic example of how an institution is killed by budget starvation. What budget support does an institution that produces teachers receive from the government? The last time I checked, it was something like 25 million Maloti. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has now gone down to 15 million and we expect to produce good teachers for the country. With what quality of education? That’s why I once said, Lesotho builds its nation using cheap cement. We expect to get the best graduates and the best teachers yet we use the cheapest cement available to produce them. The cheapest found in the market from Pakistan. Aooee banna! And how much are we allocating to Lerotholi Polytechnic? All these questions point to one fact. We are a country that has very mixed priorities. Look at the fancy cars that our politicians and senior civil servants drive around in, whilst compromising the quality of education. In conclusion, what has Lesotho really achieved in the past fifty years of its independence? I would actually rephrase the question with an answer and say Lesotho failed to invest in education in the past fifty years of its independence. How is it possible for a country that claims to be a developing country to have built one national university since independence? One! It’s not only universities but also institutions of higher learning in general such as universities of technology, technical and vocational training colleges as well as international schools (high and primary school). But the biggest blunder by far, is the self-sabotage in the name of the Lesotho School of Medicine. That demonstrated how serious we are about our youth, our health and education system. All in all, had we been a nation of sensible and sane people, we would have opted to drive old cars, tsa likoro-koro and wear torn shoes but give our youth the best education in the world because quality education comes first. ‘Mako Bohloa

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