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.
The Australian High Commissioner to Lesotho Ms. Gita Kamath visited one of the schools in the Butha-Buthe District funded by the Australian Red Cross under the School Feeding Project to see the progress achieved.
After touring the project site, the High Commissioner informed the gathering that education is very important, “however, education alone is not enough; you cannot learn when you are sick and hungry. Clean water, good hygiene and nutrition are very important in your lives and that is why this project is so important.” Miss Gita said.
She further stated that she is very proud that the Australian Red Cross is helping to make this possible and working together with Lesotho Red Cross Society.
“I just want to congratulate you al; the staff, volunteers and the community here including the principal, the school board, the teachers, the parents, the children and the chief, for the good work done in Lesotho through the Schools Feeding Project.” Miss Gita concluded.
The acting Principal of Mantlobo Primary School Mrs. Mathakane Melato indicated that the School Feeding Project did not only revive their agriculture spirit in schools but at home as well.
“The project has taught us that we need not be without vegetables all year round. We have learned to grow own vegetables and preserve them and for that we are grateful “she explained.
Mrs. Melato further gave a round of applause to members of the community for their dedication and cooperation they have shown throughout the project; from inception.
“If it was not because of you parents, the project and the schools would have failed. Through your assistance, the children are able to eat healthy food at school as well as at their homes because the same vegetables they eat at schools, they take it to their homes,” she said.
Mrs. Melato applauded the LRCS for the good work it has done in their school and the community, saying the LRCS should expand its helping hand to other schools.
One of members of Mantlobo Community, Mrs. Marelebohile Makema gave thanks
especially on the pots and stove indicating that for years their children have been
eating unhealthy food due to broken pots that were used at the school.
In addition, the Divisional Treasurer Mrs Magadebe Matela, speaking on behalf of the Butha-Buthe Red Cross Division, that she was privileged to have been to Mantlobo to witness the success of the project.
The LRCS Secretary General Mr. Kopano Masilo indicated that the Society is humbled by the fact that over 192 National Societies worldwide, the LRCS was selected for the funding of about six Million Maloti to bring a smile on the faces of the vulnerable children.
Mr. Masilo added that the LRCS is an organization that takes care of the people, and is one of organizations that are accountable to the people it serves.
“All money that we are funded with in order to assist the communities, we do so with pleasure and conviction d. please take care of the vegetables and trees. Protect them without fail so that they can benefit everyone”, He added.
A two-year School feeding project implemented by Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) which started in 2021 ended in March 2023 in the Butha Buthe district. The aim of the project was to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods of the schools and the communities. Through climate smart agricultural technologies; by rehabilitating school vegetable gardens, installation of roof water harvesting, Introduction of proper nutrition; Food preservation methods. WASH in schools and Child protection as crosscutting issues.
The project was focusing on the six schools and communities around the Ngoajane and Nqoe Community Councils. The six schools were ‘Moteng Community Primary School, ‘Moteng Roman Catholic Primary School, Khatibe Primary School, ‘Mantlobo Primary School, Jane RC Primary School and Rehauhetsoe Primary School.
It was revealed during the lessons learnt workshop that the following were achievements of the project;
- 310 Vulnerable adolescent girls were given dignity kits comprising sanitary pads, toothpaste, toothbrush, and cosmetics.
- Six Schools were trained on climate-smart agriculture and food preservation the results are already visible. The aim was to ensure that schools have a good nutritional status for the benefit of children.
- Schools and communities were provided with farming inputs which includes vegetable seeds and equipment (garden tools) to enable them to produce vegetables to benefit 1137 children with 565 males and 572 females
- The project also provided schools with fruits trees; Apple and Peach trees..
- Proper Nutrition goes with the hygiene: New energy-efficient stoves were introduced and built for six schools as well as providing the schools with new CIC pots (Old black heavy cooking pots).
- 100 school children; 45 males and 55 females, were provided with a food basket aimed at closing food gaps in the household. The basket was composed of Maize meal, beans, peas, milk, oil, salt, and sugar.
When expressing her appreciation, a Board Member of the ‘Moteng Community Primary, Mrs. Mamahlaku Moiketsi said the farming inputs that were provided has yielded good results because now the schools can feed the children.
She said the high absenteeism of girls was dramatically reduced because the girls were more confident to be with other children due to the hygiene kits they were given.
Lineo Linake, one of the students who received the dignity kits expressed her gratitude to LRCS saying it helped them to attend school more regularly without missing classes because of their periods.
On behalf of the six schools; Principal Ntane Mpai of Rehauhetsoe Primary school informed the Lesson Learned workshop that “it was difficult to get good results and attention from students because some of them came to school hungry that affected their performance.”
She said the project came at the right time when the school feeding scheme of the Government NMA encountered some challenges of providing schools with foods.
“Some students depend on the one meal they receive from school therefore, if they do not get food from the school it affects them physically and psychologically,” Mr. Mpai added.
She further stated that the schools also received highly clean and energy efficient stoves that enables the schools to save money on firewood and that they are clean
In addition, the workshop revealed that two hundred and eighty six (286) community members; 22 males and 264 females were provided with vegetable seeds; rape, kale, Florida broad leaves, carrots, spinach and beetroot, and butternut and peach and apple fruit trees.
Chief Jobile Ntlobo of Ha ‘Mantlobo in Ngoajane, articulated his gratefulness to the LCRS saying through this project they were able to promote people cooperation and unity in their villages which improved peace and stability. “We learned that through teamwork, the impossible become possible and that we can fight food insecurity by coming together in agriculture activities.” He stated. He further stated that children being sexually abused were identified and their cases are being dealt with Local Chief; Jobile Ntlobo of Ha ‘Mantlobo in Ngoajane revealed that through the school feeding project, men were hired in water constructions and this assisted in providing jobs for their families which result in reduction of crime in the villages.
When officially launching the workshop, the District Administrator (DA) of Butha-Buthe Mr T’sepa Chaba welcomed the participants and thanked LRCS for the School Feeding Project. He further emphasized the importance of the project and that he is eager for the project to continue. In conclusion the DA asked LRCS together with the stakeholders to find a way in which the project can sustain for more positive impact at schools and in the community of Butha Buthe and in other districts as well.
However, it was also revealed that the project experienced these challenges;
- The project was implemented during Covid-19, therefore, due to lock down regulations schools took a lot of breaks, and that delayed some developments in the schools.
- Relevant stakeholders were engaged in other projects such as RCCE for Covid 19 prevention and response.
- Due to heavy rains which above normal in 2021/2022 resulted in the increased mortalityrate of peach trees putting their survival rate at 45%, while apple trees were at 95% survival rate. Similar situation was experienced in the growth of vegetables due to waterlogging.
The Project Manager Mr. Mokholoane Sefatsana said “The project was implemented during Covid-19 lockdowns; therefore, most of the schools were closed leaving the gardens and tree without anyone take care of them.
He urged the community to continue taking care of the trees and gardens so they can continue to benefit from them.
When asked if the project met its goal and objectives, Mr Sefatsana Mokholoane ;“Looking at the project achievements and listening to beneficiaries’ opinions regarding the project impact in their lives, I am confident to say this project is successful and it responded to the needs of the local community. “
He continued saying; through community engagement and accountability the project managed to reach the set targets because every party played their role; being the parents, guardians, Teachers, school governing bodies, Local Authorities, as well as the children. Therefore, this guarantees the sustainability of the project.
The project mainstreamed Child Protection, PSEA, PGI and CEA which formed part of the safeguarding to the welfare of the child. To date, proper channels of referral are in place, Community Child protection teams (CCPT), District Child Protection Teams is fully functioning, LRCS Child Protection policy has been finalized. All these are making the success of the School Feeding Project.
The stakeholders in the project were; Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Forestry, Disaster Management Authority, Lesotho Mounted Police Services and Rural Water Supply.
School Feeding Project was supported by the Australian Red Cross and technical assistance from IFRC to the tune of M6 Million. The School Feeding project started in 2021 and ended in March 2023.
Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) received medical kits from the European Union Election Observation Mission to Lesotho.
When handing over the donation, the EU Head of Delegation to Lesotho Paola Amadei said it is a privilege that Lesotho Red Cross Society is the first to receive the items that include; 24 first aid kits, 34 personal medical kits, 14 hand sanitizers, two trauma kits, defibrillators, COVID-19 self-tests, infrared thermometers, metal boxes among others.
She said the mission saw it fitting to hand over the items to a worthy organisation that will put the items to good use after the General Elections in the country.
When receiving the donation, the President of LRCS Mr. Hareteke Nkhetse, on behalf of the Society expressed his gratitude to the European Union for extending a helping hand to the Society.
He further indicated that the Society is grateful to receive the goods on merit that they were doing a great job. Mr. Nkhetse said that the work of the Society is to help the government of Lesotho through humanitarian work.
The Secretary General of the Society Mr. Kopano Masilo, informed the Delegation that it is the responsibility of the Society to provide First Aid during national events such as the general elections and other events.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) has approved a total M8.4 Million (469480 CHF) for Lesotho Red Cross Society for a five-year Drought Early Action Protocols (EAP) project.
The funds are divided into three phases, namely; immediate allocation of funds for readiness to the amount of M3.4 Million (189,621), Pre-positioning M74,590.00 (4.121 CHF) and 4.9 Million (27.5738 CHF) which is automatically allocated to implement early actions once reported.
This was revealed in the Lesotho Red Cross Society Early Action Protocol (EAP) document released in December 2022.
The report stated that the first leg of the project consists of training of community-based disaster response teams(CBDRTs) , village disaster management teams(VDMTs), Key stakeholders and LRCS Volunteers and staff countrywide.
According to the project manager Ms. Sebongile Hlubi, approximately 800 people will be trained countrywide starting from March to end of the year 2023.
Hlubi indicated that the first phase which consists of capacity building will be followed by monitoring of weather forecast by Lesotho Meteorological services (LMS). Upon receiving seasonal forecast indicating normal to below normal rainfall; the dissemination of early warning messages to 20,560 people from 5,140 households, followed by unconditional cash transfer to 2640 will resume.
She said the selection of beneficiaries for cash transfer will be done using the government’s Public Assistance (PA) programmes waiting lists. The PA waiting lists contain people already assessed as vulnerable by government social workers and not yet in receipt of any cash support due to budget constraints,
The cash transfer will enable the vulnerable households to buy basic food prior to price increase. “Each household will receive M772.00 per month for two months”, she said.
“The PA lists will be pre-screened and prepared annually ahead of drought. Then, once the threshold is reached the same lists will be verified and validated by relevant stakeholders. The collation of a waiting list will be done annually in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development ( MoSD) and the Disaster Management Authority (DMA). In addition, the early warning messages will target the recipients of unconditional cash transfers and other community members Hlubi informed”
Hlubi revealed that Lesotho has national documents that shows that there is a return period of drought every year. These documents are Climate Adaptation Strategy, (NAPA) National Adaptation Programs of Action, Early Warning Systems 1 and 2 and many others; “ and these are the documents that lead to the EAP today, she added.
According to studies Lesotho experiences climate change impacts and shocks with drought being the most recurrent and impactful hazard over the last 100 years the EAP document revealed.
“Studies indicate that there is an increase in drought emergencies recorded over the 25-year period (1991/1992 – 2015/2016) in Lesotho and the most impactful drought events are agricultural and socio-economic in nature, as they deteriorate natural resource-based livelihoods along with reduced crop and livestock productivity undermining socio-economic assets bases and creating livelihood vulnerabilities. In the last 10 years, the country experienced three extreme drought episodes (2011/12, 2015/16,2018/19),” it added.
The EAP reported that the major impact of the above past episodes was food insecurity. “The situation is exacerbated by continuous crop failures, low incomes, and high food prices, with 41% of rural families spending more than half of their income on food”, the report added.
These extreme drought conditions required prompt interventions to reduce human suffering and loss of their livelihoods. Therefore, LRCS through this Early Action Protocol (EAP) aims to mitigate drought impacts through anticipatory actions (AA) in the districts that are anticipated to observe worst drought impacts, Hlubi stated.