Although children have adverse challenges to get education in Lesotho like long distances to school and bullying they still find schools as safer places to be than home.
This was said by the children during a UNICEF Lesotho study called ‘Children’s Voice’ whose aim was to identify children’s challenges and violation of their rights as a result of development and humanitarian challenges.
The study was conducted in Mafeteng, Maseru, Mokhotlong and Quthing in November last year but the approved report was released this year.
According to the Programs Director Mr Sechaba Mokhameleli who led the exercise the targeted children were those in and out of school; including herd boys and young Mothers.
The Disaster Management Officer of LRCS Mr Maine Makula indicated that it was discovered during the exercises that children come across different challenges and bottlenecks that affect their wellbeing and freedom.
The DM Officer revealed that during the focus group discussions, children were freely talking about their issues in the absences of community leaders.
He said the idea of excluding the community leaders was to ensure that the children speak freely about issues that affect them.
In addition, the other focus groups included community leaders like the chiefs, councilors and teachers, he said.
According to the participants, it was indicated that both boys and girls do not attend school well due to long distances they have to walk to schools and bullying by boys including forced labour to look after animals. The girls on the other hand are forced to cook and deliver food for boys looking after the animals.
“We feel safe at school than at home. Our parents fight in our presence, some of them give us a lot of responsibilities that affect our studying at home. We do not have enough time to play at home. Some of us especially those whose parents drink alcohol are continuously abused verbally and physically ,” they said
Children demonstrated that they are not only abused physically, but also emotionally. Lerato Motaung (not her real name) indicated that she lives with her sick mom and stepfather who always refuse to assist with school items such as; uniform, books, and clothes.
“My mother is sick, and always shouts at me when I request school items and other necessities and this gives me a lot of stress. I sometimes think I would be better off with my biological father and his family than with my mother”, she said.
Lerato says her father may treat her well and accept. She thinks he may be able to assist with her needs.
Lerato continued that her mother tells her that her father abandoned her and that wishing to relocate to him she will discover how the family hates her. She told the researchers that her mother constantly tells her how useless she is.
In conclusion, the Programs Director indicated that the study was carried out using different tools that allowed the children to be comfortable to express their issues using five thematic areas; Education, Health, Child protection, Nutrition and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
In these consultations, UNICEF observers were present to be part of the exercises which were carried out. The study was financed by UNICEF Lesotho to the tune of M432 200 maloti.