27 March, 2009

Inspectors are like buses…

…No-one appears for eight weeks then two come at once!

As reported, the inspectors from the district office came on Tuesday and asked lots of questions and filled in lots of official-looking forms.

Then on Thursday, two more inspectors arrived (again, unannounced), this time from the ministry in Maseru (Lesotho’s capital).  They asked the same lot of questions and appeared to be filling in the same forms.  However, I think we also managed to keep them happy and they made a lot of positive comments.  They seemed to suggest that there would be no problems registering the school and that it would be completed this school year.  I have promised them a development plan for the school which David has now hastily written.

Now to wait for the “next bus”.

26 March, 2009

Thaba Bosiu

On Friday we had an outing to the mountain of Thaba Bosiu.  It is
where the Basotho nation was founded, being King Moshoeshoe I’s
stronghold from where he overcame the attacks of various invaders,
including the Boers, in the nineteenth century.

The mountain is a stiff climb and quite a scramble at times.  So
Elizabeth was pleased to take a breather and study the bullet holes
left by one of the unsuccessful attacks on the mountain.

Elizabeth at the bullet holes

At the top, there are still the remains of the buildings in
Moshoeshoe’s village and the grave of Moshoeshoe and other chiefs.
Behind David you can see the mountain that inspired the design of the
Basotho hat – as worn by Elizabeth elsewhere on the blog.

David with the Basotho hat mountain in the background

24 March, 2009

Some good news – first steps to registration

After waiting nearly eight weeks, the school inspectors turned up this morning unannounced.  They asked lots of questions and had a good look around the site.  They seemed very happy with what they saw and made positive comments.

Although I know that one should be wary of being too optimistic, I feel we are beginning on the path to registration.  We were able to provide the inspectors with most of the answers but I have had to promise to provide them with some sort of business plan in the next few days.  They will then write a report for the ministry who will decide whether to approve the school or not.  Since we already have purpose-built premises (unlike some others I have heard of) we are hopeful that registration will be approved before the end of the school year (November).

Once registered, we should get some financial contribution towards teachers’ salaries and there will be grants available for poor children to help them with fees, uniform and books.

19 March, 2009

School dinner

Feeling peckish?

Firstly, take the contents of the waste paper bin outside and tip them on the ground.  Then find a few sticks and bits of wood.  Light your fire.
Secondly, walk over to the school garden and harvest a few cobs from the maize growing there.
Roast on the fire.

In no time, you have a delicious lunch.


16 March, 2009

The thrill of books

I have learnt to be a shameless scavenger while I’ve been here.  Last week I heard that a community library in Mohotlane (venue of the school races – see earlier blog) was about to receive a generous donation of books from America and was clearing out some old books.  David and I spent an hour sifting through them, rejecting “British Birds in Colour” and “The Ladybird book of Canals” but finding enough books to set up some sort of library at Ha Fusi.  We managed to put four boxes on a bus going to the village and on Thursday, I sent students down to the village to collect them.  They came back with them, one boy with his nose firmly stuck into “Adventure Stories for Boys” (published in 1950s I think).

Today I asked for help cataloguing them so that we could start lending them out.  The students were so excited and insisted on borrowing them straight away.  Their lives do not include an experience of books simply for reading;  in fact, the few bookshops which exist only sell school textbooks and bibles and prayer books and these are very expensive in proportion to everything else.

I am hoping now to recruit some students to run a lending system in the library, so that I have more time to continue scavenging.

12 March, 2009

A Day at the Races

Yesterday was a public holiday.  Now I know all you primary teachers out there wish you were as lucky as those here by spending the day taking all their pupils on a rickety bus miles and miles to an inter-schools sports day for all the Anglican primary schools in the (very wide) area.  We were invited to join them by the schools secretary so we narrowly missed hitching a lift on a school bus and were escorted there by car (a luxury we don’t often experience).  We arrived at the host village and found a small marquee erected next to a dirt field with goalposts at either end, known locally as a football pitch.  Grossly overloaded buses started to arrive and disgorge their enthusiastic passengers and everyone gathered around the field waiting for the sports to begin.  This is African time and nothing happened for over two hours.  Nobody seemed to mind and the children just amused themselves, mainly by singing which was lovely.

Eventually, there seemed to be a lot of whistle-blowing and bell-ringing and the races began.  The runners had found assorted shorts and tee-shirts to wear, but what struck me most was that they all ran barefoot and the ground really was rough. There were running races of different lengths from 100m to 1600m (is this a standard distance?) but nothing else.  Winning is very important and the excitement built up as the eight schools battled it out for the three age-group trophies.

During the day I had a little wander round.  As usual, I was greeted very much for my novelty value and parents were very impressed that I could greet them in Sesotho.  Since all I can manage is “Good day”, “How are you?” and “Where have you come from?” I began to understand how the royal family feel when they are on walkabout.

We had a long wait for the final result.  I thought the scorers were having trouble with their arithmetic but it transpired that one of the schools had been accused of using boys who had already left the school.  Shock horror!  A cheat!  Then no-one could find a single teacher from the school to confess or deny the allegation!  But they were disqualified – should be a good talking point for a few years to come.

While we were waiting each school entertained us with some traditional dancing or singing.  As is usual at these events the quality was mixed, but what they lacked in finesse they certainly made up for in enthusiasm.

Time for the trophies to be presented.  Well, when you need a celebrity and there is one standing there, the solution is obvious.  So, ‘Me Maboitelo did the honours as you can see.


8 March, 2009

Elizabeth goes to church

When I found out that the men’s group were going to Fusi church on Sunday, I decided to join them.  (Ha Fusi is the village where our secondary school is based.)  I requested a lift and was told to be ready at 10 o’clock.  At 10 to 10 a pickup truck arrived and I was told to wait until later.  So I waited…and waited…and waited.  At quarter to 11 another pickup truck arrived with half a dozen men sitting in the back singing.  I was given the seat in the cab.  I was actually told to do up my seatbelt – a first in Lesotho – although I wasn’t sure it would protect me from anything it was so loose.  We trundled along the dirt road and eventually arrived at the church considerably late, but no-one seems to mind.

I tried to creep in, but was escorted to an obvious seat.  I am beginning to find my way round the prayer book, but finding the hymns was a challenge as there was no hymn number board and everyone knew the words by heart.  A kind Mother’s Union lady helped me.  After stting through the usual Sesotho sermon and prayers (you get used to it) and joining in a few more hymns (there are usually a couple of impromptu ones included in the sermon!) we were approaching the end of the service.

The inevitable happened – I was summoned up to the front of the church and a nice young man was called on to be our interpreter.  Basically I was asked why I was there.  I managed to introduce myself in Sesotho and explained that I teach at the village secondary school.  I spotted a few of my pupils in the congregation so I hauled them out to give me moral support.  Fortunately, I remembered all their names.  Some names are difficult to get your tongue round.  I was given a warm welcome.

So I thought the service was over;  I was wrong.  They decided there hadn’t been enough colllection. (It’s always counted and announced during the service here) so the men said they would sing and process while people gave more.  The Mother’s Union, not to be outdone, joined in the procession and sang at least as loudly as the men.  They then announced that there had been more but it would be nice to have a round sum so what about someone giving 4 maloti.  So the men broke into song again.  Much cheering when a lady went forward with the cash.

Time to go home?  Oh no!  The ladies (Mother’s union and a couple of other groups I haven’t quite worked out) had prepared lunch for the visiting men and of course I was with them.  Sit down, I was told, and given a plate with a large helping of white stuff (papa – maize meal), and smaller helpings of yellow (pumpkin???) green (some sort of leafy stuff) and orange (no idea!).  It wasn’t unpleasant but quite bland and filling.  I was also given a large enamel bowl of liquid that looked like a cross between dirty dishwater and mushroom soup and it was stone cold.  It too was drinkable but only just;  apparently it was motoho, a thin porridge.  Anyway, surrounded by men, I had no problem finding someone to finish mine off for me without appearing rude to our hosts.

Eventually, we left Ha Fusi and returned home.  Church fills up the whole day here.