Developing the country’s human resource base is an important foundation for growth as well as fulfilling the fundamental human right to education. Tremendous strides have been made in Lesotho’s education system in the past several years, especially through the provision of free primary education.
Lesotho’s literacy rates are among the highest on the continent, with the overall population literacy rate standing at 83 percent compared to 62.4 percent in the rest of sub-Sahara Africa and 82 percent in South Africa, considered the most developed country on the continent (UNESCO, 2004). Furthermore, female literacy at 93 percent is nearly twice that of women elsewhere in Africa, while literacy among individuals aged 15 to 24 years is 91 percent.
The country ha entered its eighth year of providing free primary education (FPE), and when the current Standard 7 class graduates at the end of 2007 will achieve universal access to primary education. Part of government’s aim in instituting FPP is to increase the employability of its citizens by ensuring at least ten years of universal basic education, as recommended by the World Bank. It is hoped that Lesotho will reach the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education with the enactment of a new law on compulsory primary education.
In addition to free primary education, a targeted equity-based programme, which waives school fees for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, is available for student at secondary and tertiary levels.
Much of this progress may he attributed to Lesotho’s development partners, who have over the years funded various programmes to procure teaching aids, construct new schools, provide scholarships and bursaries, and develop school feeding programmes. These partners include the World Bank and other international organisations and agencies such as USAJI), UNESCO, UNICEF, Irish Aid, the British Council and Save the Children U K.
Primary schooling begins at six years of age and lasts This is followed by three years of Junior Secondary schooling, leading to the Junior Certificate Examination (ICE), and two Secondary schooling, leading to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) examinations. About 30 percent attend pre-schools and some students proceed to university and other tertiary institutions.
Primary school examinations and the JCE are organised by the Examinations Council of Lesotho (ECOL), which also coordinates other international examinations.
An autonomous body authorised by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) to oversee the development and examinations, the ECOL receives subventions from government as collecting examinations fees from candidates.
At the beginning of 2006, 17 schools built at a cost of about M60 million with assistance from the Government of Japan were handed over to the Minister of Education and Training. A total of 225 classrooms, expected to accommodate at least 14 000 pupils, were built under this project, which covered schools in the Maseru and Berea districts.
Furthermore, funds contributed by the Irish government through Irish Aid have led to the building of 24 schools with 130 classrooms in all.
Education and ICTs
The NEPAD c-Schools Demonstration Project launched at L High School is part of the continent-wide NEPAD initiative a first of its kind in southern Africa. The project falls under the auspices of the NEPAD c-Africa Commission, the body’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) task team responsible for dev the NEPAD ICT programme and implementing related projects.
Cooperation between the community, the Lesotho Government NEPAD and Oracle Consortium has resulted in a radical transformation of the school, which now has computers and accessories, Internet, computer desks, DSTV, TV screens and a decoder, an e-curriculum, e-health facility, and teachers trained in ICT. All classrooms connected to a media centre, where information from DSTV is channelled to the classroom screens.
The main providers of non-formal education are NGOs, the community, private individuals and some church organisations. The MoET also offers non-formal education through the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre and the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies, which is part of the National University of Lesotho.
In addition to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and technical and vocational training colleges, other tertiary institutions comprise the Lesotho College of Education, an autonomous teacher training institution, and the Institute for Distance and Continuing Studies, which is affiliated to NUL.
istance education is also provided through a number of institutions in South Africa. Government estimates that there are approximately 2 000 Basotho studying in South African tertiary institutions, most of whom are sponsored by the state.