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When teaching is a calling



HLOTSE – GROWING up under the inspiration of her Principal at Leribe English Medium School (LEMS), Beata Matasane knew she only had one profession to follow: Education.

“I just loved how she dressed, walked, managed the school and conducted herself. I knew as a kid what career path I wanted to take because of her,” said Matasane, referring to ‘Makabelo Mosothoane, the principal.

Matasane, who grew up in Mankoaneng, said her love to drive positive change and help people also fuelled her love for education.

“I believe education, formal or informal, is vital to everyone and we all need to access it,” said Matasane, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education holder from the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Matasane specialised in Sesotho and Development Studies before pursuing an Honours Degree in Educational Management, Leadership and Policy Studies at the same institution.

She further obtained an Honours Degree in South African Sign Language and Interpreting at the University of the Free State (UFS) where she passed with a distinction.

Matasane also holds a certificate in Lesotho Sign Language and SA sign language and obtained a distinction in both of them. Currently, she is pursuing her MA in South African Sign Language at the UFS.

She was one of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) 2022 fellows and one of the MWF Professional Development Experience Alumni who will be attached virtually at one of the “biggest” institutions in the United States of America.

Apart from being an interpreter, Matasane is a part-time lecturer at the NUL, a businesswoman, a sign language translation and interpreting consultant and Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD) inclusive education officer at the Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled Lesotho (LNFOD).

Since 2015, her focus has been to improve access to quality education for deaf students.

“It is a very long journey but I believe that there is hope for tomorrow,” she said.

Her biggest achievement, she said, was being chosen out of about 200 applicant for the Mandela Washington Fellowship to represent Lesotho in the United States.

“Also, being one of the people who assisted in producing the very first deaf student to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in 2022 is one of my huge accomplishments as an interpreter,” said Matasane, who grew up in a family that struggled to put food on the table.

“At times, we delayed paying school fees and got expelled with my siblings but we still went back regardless and pretended that nothing had happened. I am super grateful for all those who helped me overcome the challenges that included bullying at school. Had it not been of them, I think I would not have made it this far. I had to grow a thick skin,” she said, adding: “I come from a very hardworking and supportive family. My dad, mother and sisters played an important role and I am here because of their continuous support. It was very easy for me to accomplish my dreams because every time I feel like I am tired and want to quit I have them by my side to encourage me to do more and better.”’

She describes her parents as her “best friends as we communicate almost everything”.

“If I have a beautiful idea or project that I am interested in, I know they will help me make it better. Their hard work and support has turned me into a very hard working woman, someone who is very confident, caring and loving. I have learned that I cannot achieve anything in life unless I work very hard to achieve it.”

Matasane is concerned about the prevailing situation relating to education of people with disabilities due to stigma and other “numerous” challenges they continue to encounter.

“No specific person is to be blamed. We are all responsible for the unsuccessful implementation of the 2018 Inclusive Education Policy,” she said, noting that the policy “only exists on paper.”

“How practical is it? How come there are still a lot of dropouts of students and learners with disabilities?” she queried.

“As society, we are the ones causing people with disability to feel excluded because we fail to meet their needs,” she said, citing that to date, there are no sign language interpreters in centres that offer basic services such as clinics.

“We are causing hearing disability by not engaging professional sign language interpreters in those areas.

“If we do engage them then we will not have any form of disability as the social model of disability concurs with the above statement that disability is caused by barriers in our different communities like access to certain services.

“There is a dire need for sensitisation and it should start within our families such that as parents we should refrain from using words like ‘likooa kapa batho ba phelang le bokooa’ as that is very discriminatory. Rather we should say ‘batho ba nang le bokooa’.”

Matasane added: “We have to teach our children that there is nothing wrong with having a child with disability or playing with them. That way as they play together in schools, it will not be a foreign thing when they see any kind of disability as that becomes normalised.

“We need to engage the organisations of PWDs in all the policy discussions and plans so that they have a say because they are usually left behind. We also need to have strong and strict laws that support and protect people with disabilities.”

She said Lesotho is a member state of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Article 24 of the Convention states that “all member states need to recognise the right of persons with disabilities to education and shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels.”

“However, this does not happen in Lesotho,” she said.

She said Lesotho also has a free primary policy but “to date there are children that do not go to school due to various reasons and no one is held accountable such that we see early child marriages and child labour challenges”.

Matasane said she shifted from education to being a sign language interpreter because of her love to effect positive change. “I take pride in being part of the people that bring happiness to segregated groups.”

She said she has observed with agony the “very low” school enrolments of deaf people.

“Then I asked myself how I can assist and that is when I decided to be a sign language interpreter. Also I am someone who is very curious to learn about exclusion.

“I am super happy with my choice as I see light at the end of the tunnel and I am glad to be part of the people bringing that light,” said Matasane.

For the past seven years she has been practicing as an interpreter, Matasane describes one of her biggest challenges as “being challenged in different ways by some of the people I serve as there are so many untold stories that I face as I interpret”.

“Despite it all, I soldier on because I love what I do and have a vision for the deaf in Lesotho,” she said.

“I am already working with different organisations and individuals to increase public awareness either through the interpreting I do on my Youtube channel, on LNBS, NUL or any platforms. Sign language is heading to a more inclusive side where we will see different sectors having interpreters to accommodate the deaf.”

Matasane said currently people living with disability face common challenges. These include access to information, access to buildings, dealing with unqualified support staff, a non-flexible curriculum, lack of relevant assistive devices and attitudinal barriers.

“I feel like education is everyone’s responsibility for the betterment of our citizens. As such, political will has to be there to fully support the inclusive education policy by resources, finances, reviewing the existing policy and engaging organisations of people living with disabilities,” said Matasane.

“The best way to solve these issues is to fully engage organisations that represent people with disabilities, their families and the community at large in any decision making as well as the need to fully practice what is in the policy,” said Matasane.

’Mapule Motsopa

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