by Brianne Smith | Nov 22, 2018 | General |
The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is magnificent and the people are beautiful, but young people face so many obstacles that few can surmount the challenges to stay in school and become the leaders their country so urgently needs.
Primary schooling up to Grade 7 has been free in Lesotho since 2000. It was only in May 2010 that attendance at primary school was made compulsory.
Obstacles faced by Children in Lesotho
Despite free education up until Grade 7, children struggle to stay in school. Many have to walk two hours to school each way, arrive at school hungry and are unable to concentrate. They show up without proper uniforms, coats or shoes required to stay warm and healthy.
Children often wear thread-bare hand-me-down uniforms to school, and sit shivering in their poorly maintained classrooms. The lack of resources to maintain the infrastructure leaves poorer school classrooms often dilapidated with caved in roofs, broken windows, no heat and no desks.
In addition, school pit latrines (toilets) are often full and must be emptied or replaced, and without proper toilet facilities many girls will not come to school due to a lack of privacy.
Obstacles faced by Schools in Lesotho
Teachers also struggle in Lesotho. They have limited resources to work with, receive inadequate salaries, teach in overcrowded classrooms (sometimes up to 100 students per teacher) and at night they return to horrible housing conditions, where they must board away from their families, while teaching in rural locations.
Many teachers do not have the training to properly educate the children, and as a result the children suffer the consequences of a poor education.
When children reach high school, their families begin paying school fees which are prohibitive. You can imagine a family’s priority might not be sending their children to school when they can’t even afford to keep food on the table.
As a result, only 20 per cent of youth in Lesotho are able to attend to high school because of the costs involved, which forces children to sit at home or work informal labour jobs.
Often children are sent out to work in order to cover household expenses. Boys are sent to the fields to herd livestock, while girls work as domestics or take on more of their family’s household chores and responsibilities, so their caregivers can seek work.
Some children come from homes where a parent, sibling or relative is sick with HIV/AIDS and as a result, most children and youth must look after sick people. Other children belong to child-headed households, where most often their parents have passed away due to complications from HIV/AIDS.
What can we do?
The Schools Helping Schools Program was one of the first programs launched when Help Lesotho was founded in 2004.
Currently, Help Lesotho works with 17 partner schools in Lesotho (11 primary and 6 high schools) all of whom are in desperate need of support. Partner schools are chosen on the basis of leadership and commitment to providing children with the safest and most effective learning environments and strategies.
These schools are then partnered with 17 schools across Canada who provide support financially, but also friendship through project exchanges and other cross-cultural, relationship-building activities.
Thousands of Basotho children and youth have benefited from such support as classroom construction and repairs, uniforms and shoes, classroom supplies, textbooks, rain barrels, blankets and toothbrushes.
For many Basotho students, the friendship and tangible support they receive from their Canadian friends reminds them that they have not been forgotten. While providing financial aid in the form of desks, books and uniforms is critical, it is the restoration of hope for a brighter future that makes the biggest difference.
To find out more or to get your school involved, visit out website.
Support a Child
Another program Help Lesotho created to help youth reap the benefits of an education is the Child Sponsorship Program.
The program supports children in rural communities who are often double-orphans and have no other source of funds to pay the prohibitive high school fees needed after Grade 7.
The program is the only option for many of these children to continue going to school and achieve their dream of being educated and having a bright future.
The majority of sponsored children are girls due to their increased vulnerability to poverty and HIV/AIDS.
The Child Sponsorship Program is a combination of financial support for formal education and psychosocial support to help children grow up and become a leader, despite the odds stacked against them.
The children who are sponsored are held accountable to Help Lesotho to work hard and achieve good grades, receive life skills and gender equity training and are expected to act as leaders in schools, through regular visits with Help Lesotho staff. The children are also able to access greater support when challenges arise from trained Help Lesotho staff members.
The individuals who sponsor each child not only provide a promising future through education, but they demonstrate to each child that someone knows who they are, believes in them and will support them.
The children no longer feel alone, and children who are supported, thrive.
For more information on sponsoring a child, visit our website.
by Kate Lambert | Oct 11, 2018 | General |
In 2017, one of Help Lesotho’s alumni delivered a compelling speech in honour of the International Day of the Girl. Felleng’s words are a powerful reminder about the need to end child marriage if Lesotho’s girls will have a chance at a brighter future.
As young girls and women, we face many different challenges. We are vulnerable in all aspects and are treated as worthless. Today is the International Day of the Girl. This day exists because the world needs to pay attention to the injustices that prevent girls from reaching their potential. While today we shout from the top of our lungs against child and forced marriage, we hope to be heard and not just heard but we hope to see action taken against child marriage. So many girls do not get to have their voices heard. They suffer in silence as victims in their families and relationships. Today I am speaking for the girls who do not get to be here today because they are being held like hostages as wives.
Our culture allows – and even encourages – child and forced marriage. This practice has deep traditional connections BUT things can change! We are girls of new generation. The practice of early and forced marriage was created by people, and they can undo it.
Why should we be given away to old men, with no respect for our bodies, our lives, and our futures?
Parents seem to think that daughters will bring their families shame, particularly if one was to fall pregnant before marriage. But is the worry of this shame worth destroying a daughter’s life?
Because most of us come from very poor families, our parents see us as a source of their wealth. The temptation of the lobola is difficult to resist, even though it only yields a temporary gain for most families. When will it be time to prioritize the wellbeing of girl children, instead of trading them for such small benefits.
Each girl who is forced to marry is a victim. As victims our lives are miserable, we cry day in day out. We are being abused physically, emotionally and mentally. We are young. Not only young in age, but some of us are tiny, our bodies are too immature to carry another human being when we become pregnant against our wishes.
Human beings are intelligent. We know the difference between right and wrong. We have the power to make changes and improvements. The evidence is clear that child marriage is harmful, not only to girls, but to entire communities.
- How much longer shall we young girls be tortured for doing no wrong but just for being girls?
- Where are the laws to protect us?
- Why are they only written in documents and not implemented?
- Why are we never involved in decisions that affect us most?
There should be nothing for us without us, and may you who hear us help us, may our grievances be heard and touch the souls of those with power and authority to help us. I call on each person in Lesotho to fight against child marriage.
Let us empower girls to live as children, not as wives.
by Brianne Smith | Sep 20, 2018 | General |
When Nkhono (Grandmother) Mathibo’s husband passed away she was forced off her land by her step-son who was born of a her husband’s first wife.
The elderly woman left her home for fear of her life; her step-son had threatened to kill her. Lesotho’s inheritance laws give the first born male child all the inheritance rights. In a polygamous marriage, the heir is the firstborn male child of the first married wife.
Nkhono tried to press charges and fight for her land, but her struggle was in vain.
In Lesotho, customary Law is guided by the Laws of Lerotholi, which took effect in 1903. During this time, Lesotho was a highly patriarchal society and the status of women in society was not recognized.
The customary laws of Lesotho state that an heir of immovable property will be the first born male child. It goes further to indicate that in the case where there is no male child in the family, the inheritance will go to the male next closest male relative in the family. Therefore, according to the customary laws, a female is not entitled to any land inheritance.
When the head of the family dies, the heir inherits all the immovable property in that household, including fields and buildings. The heir is expected to use the property to take care of all the minors and needy members of the extended family and to arrange family obligations.
If a widow continues to live in her deceased husband’s village and remarries, she retains life rights to the husband’s fields. As a result, the male heir is supposed to share the land with the widow for as long as she lives, but this isn’t always enforced as was the case in Nkhono’s story.
Women’s Rights to Land
In Lesotho, girls and women are treated as minors and as such they are not considered competent to hold or inherit land or to make any major decisions regarding land under their control.
When the eldest sons exercise their right of inheritance, the women occupying or using the inherited land are left in a vulnerable position. If they are allowed to use the land, they have to use it on conditions set by the heir.
There is also the possibility of them being denied access to the land. This leaves women without a home with no means of income.
In 1995, the Government of Lesotho ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), yet this was not applied to all laws.
In 2011, the CEDAW Committee urged Lesotho to include in its Constitution and other appropriate legislation prohibition of discrimination against women, which encompasses both direct and indirect discrimination in both public and private life.
Unfortunately, today there is still an urgent need to repeal or amend the Laws of Lerotholi in order to change the customary inheritance laws in adherence with civil law, and ultimately removing discrimination and gender inequalities.
Mamosala, a double-orphan lived with her grandparents until her grandmother passed. The girl had no yet come of age when her grandfather kicked her out of his home. She had no protections from this eviction because she did not inherit her parents’ land and her grandmother could not legally leave any property to her after her death.
The girl was left to fend for herself, eventually finding herself in indentured servitude in exchange for lodging.
Girls cannot inherit land under customary law. Under civil law, such inheritance can only occur where the owner has left a will and has abandoned the ‘customary mode of life and adopted a European mode of life.’
The contradictory nature of the two legal systems undermines women’s equal inheritance rights. This causes women and girls to become vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early or forced marriage, dropping out of school and being excluded from economic opportunities due to lack of education.
Help Lesotho educates girls and women, as well as and boys and men on the harmful effects of gender inequity in order to create a brighter future for all Basotho. Our programs are so important now more than ever; to learn more visit our website.
by Brianne Smith | Jul 25, 2018 | General |
August marks the start of a brand new cohort of Herd Boys receiving life saving information through HIV/AIDS education, gender equity training and life skills.
Herd boys like Mphepe (left) and his friend Mohato often have to leave school to earn an income for their families by herding sheep or cattle.
“I started herding animals in 2014; my family didn’t see the purpose for me to acquire an education. My father was burdened by a lot of work so I had to help him with field work and herding animals. I dropped out of school when I was in Grade 4.”
Herd Boy Training
Mphephe, 15, and his friend, Mohato, who is deaf, joined the Herd Boy training program in 2017. The boys live in the rural, mountainous district of Thaba Tseka.
“One of my greatest memories is when I roasted maize (corn) in the mountains with my beloved friend – Mohato.”
Stigma in the Mountains
But not all days are good on the grasslands. Mphephe and his friend narrated the unfortunate ordeal of a day when they neglected the animals while roasting their favourite maize cobs. The animals went astray and destroyed someone’s crops.
“We actually got carried away with the roasting without keeping an eye on the animals; they disappeared and fed on one man’s crops. He was furious and we were beaten thoroughly.”
Herd boys are often stigmatized by their communities and accused of sexual violence, theft, and destruction.
Life Saving Information
Help Lesotho’s Herd Boy program provides the young men with life skills needed to navigate their lives successfully while showing them compassion and acceptance.
The training includes sessions on anger management, drugs and alcohol abuse, gender based violence, as well as an opportunity to test for HIV.
Mphepe says he stopped smoking as a result of the training. After the alcohol and drug abuse sessions he decided to break the smoking habit.
“One of the most important things that I have done as a result of the knowledge I gained during the training is to quit smoking. We were taught about the dangers of using tobacco and other drugs and I stopped smoking, although it was not easy!’’
When herd boys are educated on the consequences of their actions through compassion and support: change occurs, violence ends and hope is born.
Read Tsita’s story here: https://helplesotho.org/tsita-story/
by Brianne Smith | Jun 12, 2018 | General |
If you’ve ever had the privilege of visiting Lesotho, you already know what it’s like to be surrounded by majestic mountains at all times! Every vista is breath-taking in this tiny kingdom (only about the size of the state of Maryland), so we wanted to share 10 reasons why the Mountain Kingdom lives up to its name:
1.Highest lowest point: The lowest point above sea level in Lesotho is 1500 metres, making it the country with the highest low point in the world.
2. ALL the Mountains: Lesotho did not gain the name “the mountain kingdom” for nothing. Nearly two thirds of the country consist of mountains (2200 – 3000 metres). And when driving through the country, you’ll see mountains, mountains, MOUNTAINS, in every shape and in every form.
3. Katse Dam: The Katse Dam is the highest dam in Africa (the surface reaches 2050 metres when at 100% full) and with 185 metres is the second largest dam wall in Africa.
4. Maletsunyane Falls: With a drop of 192 metres, the Maletsunyane is the highest single drop waterfall in Southern Africa. According to the Guinness book of records, the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil is one of 204m (670ft) down the Maletsunyane waterfall.
5. Sani Pass: The Sani Pass is a mountain pass which cuts through the UNESCO designated Drakensberg mountain range linking South Africa with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. This pass, also known as the Roof of Africa, runs through no-mans lands between the two border posts. The Pass is approximately 9km in length and requires above average driving experience.
It has occasional remains of vehicles that did not succeed in navigating its steep gradients and poor traction surfaces dotted along its length, and has a catalogue of frightening stories of failed attempts at ascending the path over the Northern Lesotho mountains. More recently it has become tourists magnet for 4×4 adventurers, eager to experience the challenging off-road drive and magnificent views of the Drakensbourg mountain range. It’s also one of Africa’s highest mountain passes and home to the highest pub in Africa at the top!
6. Thaba Bosiu: This is where the Basotho nation was built. In July,1824, King Moshoeshoe and his people took occupation of the mountain which his brother Mohale had reconnoitred. Moshoeshoe named the mountain Thaba Bosiu – Mountain at Night – because he and his people arrived there in the evening and barricading the mountain took him until late at night.
Rumours spread that the mountain grows larger at night, which intimidated their enemies. The fortress has eight springs and seven passes, the main one being Khubelu. Thaba Bosiu was never conquered by invaders.
7. Afriski: Afriski is the only skiing resort in Lesotho, located 3050 m above sea-level in the Maluti Mountains, operating near the northern border of Lesotho and South Africa. It is one of only two ski resorts in southern Africa.
8. Thabana Ntlenyana: Thabana Ntlenyana means “Beautiful little mountain” in Sesotho, and this mountain is the highest point in Lesotho and the highest mountain in all of southern Africa below Kilimanjaro.
9. Ts’ehlanyane National Park: Ts’ehlanyane National Park is Lesotho’s largest National Park and is located in the Maloti Mountains in Butha-Buthe District, Lesotho, and is part of the larger Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area.
10.Dinosaur Footprints: Dinosaur footprints are scattered all over Lesotho and there are a few near the village of Roma. They are located at the top of the mountain and are difficult to find by yourself, but local children are happy to act as guides for a few maloti/rand. The footprints lie in an unprotected slab of rock and are eroded by weather and daily wear and tear from the locals and animals. The local community also runs a tiny dinosaur footprint museum.
There you have it! The Mountain Kingdom is full of wonders, majestic scenery and places to explore!