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What it means to be youth in Lesotho



Two Countries Documentary: the walking of a forgotten generation, a stirring documentary produced by Motikoe Khiba, got me asking myself why this country is in such a sorry state. The predictable refrain from the elders could be that a 15-year-old girl should not be asking such questions. That is not surprising because it is how the elders have often reacted to young people who ask relevant questions about the economic, political and social direction of this country. I will ask them anywhere. And so should the other young people who are often told that they are the future of this country. Whether you are riveted by politics or are simply disinterested, politics will affect you. Society at large has normalised turning a blind eye or being naive about politics. The youths are the biggest culprits in that regard. They believe politics is an ‘adult thing’. For long, the elders influenced us and allowed us to believe that politics “ke taba tsa batho ba baholo”. They shut us down when we want to speak up. There is an urgent need for the youth to fight for their place in the discourse about the Lesotho we want. We must realise that unless the goals and principles as to what position we want the youth to play in the country are shared, there is no way we can reach our end goal. This calls for a revolution. Once we hear the word ‘revolution’, we often times immediately associate it with uprising and rioting. But this is a mistake. Revolutions can be harmonious and amicable. In my view, a revolution is breaking away from what no longer serves us and innovatively restructuring it to what we want it to be for us. Only after we rebrand the revolution can we truly be revolutionary. When we are revolutionary, a clean break from the past is more likely. The issues surrounding youth stem from the postcolonial rule and what was instilled and passed onto our elders regarding the role the youth should place in national affairs. Education is said to be the greatest weapon but it can also be the most destructive weapon. Anything good can be bad if negatively used. Our education does not empower the youth to be change-makers and innovators. This is why the mantra about the youths being the future of this country is hollow. The education system teaches us where we come from but does not allow us to decide where we want to go? It needs to be reformed to suit what is relevant for today’s generation. That does not mean eliminating what worked and works. It needs to continue teaching us where we come from but also allow us to vocalise and decide where we want to be. Such opportunities are often only offered in higher institutions of learning yet the students are still not given a chance to present themselves. The country needs to start investing in the innovative ideas of the youth. Lesotho has immense talent and potential but that goes to waste because our leaders lack the will and vision to nurture it. This could be done by allowing the youth to present ideas on how to reform and rebuild the Lesotho they will one day lead and live in. This should be made available to all youth in the nation, including those in the rural areas who often times do not get the platforms to voice their ideas and showcase their creative talent. We tend to think that the level of education one has determines the quality of leader one will be. Take a look at the level of education the leaders Lesotho had when it was at its “best”. Look where we are now. The leaders will make it seem like they are in alliance with the youth because that is what they think we want to hear. It is very easy for them to say “the youth are the leaders of tomorrow” yet they continuously and undoubtedly fail to give us the chance to step up. They don’t believe in us because they don’t even believe in themselves. In one interview with a local radio station, our Prime Minister said: “The youth are moving in their own direction, they are not part of us” (the interview is also part of Two Countries Documentary). The problem starts with this kind of ‘them against us” mentality. Who is ‘them’? Who is ‘us’? Such polarising statements are unhelpful. If the head of government says this, what more about the people he leads (government officials) who are influenced by his ideologies. Unless our leaders realise that they are the problem, they won’t fix it. It seems our leaders fear our capabilities, our strength, our drive, and our vision yet they pretend to encourage it. It appears they fear we will tear down the Lesotho they built for so many years. The same Lesotho that has become unstable, stagnant and almost inhabitable. The youth cannot continue building on an unstable foundation. Our leaders are holding on to what they hoped Lesotho would be and failed to achieve. They feel threatened by the power and drive from the youth because it’s what they once saw in themselves. They fail to accept that their passion and desire to see a better Lesotho is no longer as genuine as before. Their attitude towards the youth is simply a reflection of their insecurities. Tšepiso Isabella Makobori said in the Two Countries Documentary: “If you look at any country that has in any way achieved a sense of freedom or some kind of liberation, they had to go through that”. In this instance “that” being some sort of resistance or revolt like the #BachaShutDown that took place in November 2020. It is accurate to say no change big or small has come at a low cost. No emancipation has been achieved without consistent pressure on the system. The same system that is supposed to be for us is the system we are fighting to listen to us. The notion that Basotho youth are too young to have a seat at the table until they are too old is still relevant. It has been made to seem like the idea was abolished yet it has been entrenched. The idea of relevancy in youth leadership has been marginalised. As youth we will get nowhere if we are constantly pointing fingers. What can we do for ourselves to be heard? We cannot depend on people who no longer believe in what they stand for. These people will not be suffering the consequences of their selfish so-called leadership. No change will be achieved until the concept of leadership is understood. We often look for a leader just to break them down and set them up for failure. Leadership is amalgamation. One leads from the bottom up but that is something our leaders fail to understand. The moment one thinks they are more superior to the people that put them in that position they misunderstood the intent of your role as a leader. Engage with the people, you are there to make their demands a reality. If you fail to do that then step down. That is what a true leader does. They know when to take a step back and be led. Our elders have failed and it’s time for them to step back and allow the youth to lead. l Kamohelo Dumisile Khabele is a 15 year old young lady who attends Eunice High School. She enjoys playing tennis and is ranked first in the Lesotho’s u/20 females team. She is currently part of the Representative Committee of Learners at her school. Kamohelo Dumisile Khabele

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