SEATTLE — With the help of the World Bank and other organization such as UNICEF, Lesotho has been continually striving to improve and maintain a strengthened education system. In the past ten years, it has already been able to bring its class sizes down to an average 33 children per teacher, increase the amount of trained and qualified teachers, and boost enrolment numbers in Lesotho.
Significant progress for education in Lesotho was made in 2010, when the Lesotho parliament approved the Education Act, detailing free compulsory primary education for Basotho children.
A 2006 census reported that 1.5 percent of Basotho children under the age of 19 were living with some form of disability – blindness, amputation etc. – impeding them from obtaining an education. That same census reported extremely high numbers of child laborers. In order to cut down on the abuse of children, parliament enacted the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011.
As of 2013, the Lesotho ministry has implemented a free distance learning program for both primary and secondary schooling, in order to reach children with special needs and older children that have been previously unable to attend school.
The succession of last year’s grant for expanding education in Lesotho saw an increase of 3,628 students, the reconstruction of 143 classrooms and 93 newly-built lavatories, further reduction in student-to-teacher ratios, the training of 11,158 teachers (including 380 new hires), principals in a new curriculum and the distribution of more than one million textbooks.
The Lesotho College, with the help of UNICEF, recently reviewed its Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) Certificate program, to meet the growing needs of educating Lesotho, raise awareness, reach a standard policy and curriculum in ECDE, as well as create a distance learning program to increase the number of qualified educators.
However, despite significant progress made in educating Lesotho over the last decade, there is still much work to be done. In May of this year, the World Bank approved funding the Lesotho government with 25 million dollars to improve schools with low performance ratings and rural schools. The education grant will extend over the course of five years, and works in conjunction with another action plan, is aimed at decreasing poverty in Lesotho by increasing the incomes of Lesotho’s poorest.
Lesotho’s Minister of Education and Training welcomes the aid, in light of growing concern that Basotho schools rank third-lowest in the South African Region and have low levels of student retention. Out of the children beginning primary school, only 62 percent complete the course, and of those who continue on to secondary school, only 42 percent graduate. Through improving basic education in select areas, the Ministry of Education hopes to improve student learning and retention.
– Amy Whitman