28 July, 2009

Keyhole Garden

While the visitors from Cokethorpe School were with us, the students joined together to build a keyhole garden at the school.

These gardens are being promoted in Lesotho by Send a Cow.  The gardens are an organic approach to building up the poor soil in Lesotho to produce crops of vegetables for families.  At the centre of the garden is a composting basket, which is easily reached via the “keyhole”.  The height of the gardens also makes them more easily managed by people who are old or ill.

On the Friday, the students were sent out in groups to gather the material to build the garden.  We were told we would need:
*    1/2 bag of tin cans
*    3 bags wood ash
*    4 – 5 bags of dry grass
*    6 bags of animal manure
*    8 sticks (as thick as broom handles) each 1.5 metres long
*    flat stones to pile on top of each other equivalent to building a wall 1 metre high by 4 to 5 metres long

The wood ash proved the hardest to gather, but it gave the English students a good excuse to explore the village and they were soon invited into people’s homes.

It took a while to dig the ground – more like rock than soil – but with a few stones and construction of the central basket, the garden soon started to take shape.

Taking Shape

After that, it was layer and layer of tin cans, manure, grass, wood ash and soil, filling in the stone wall that was gradually built higher and higher.

Building It Up

With so many people working, the garden was soon completed.

Completed Garden

In a few weeks winter should be over and it will be time to start sowing seeds.

27 July, 2009

School Outing

After the excitement of the big party at Ha Fusi, we had more activities planned for the English students and their Basotho friends.

Thaba Bosiu is an important site for the Basotho people as it was on this mountain that Moshoeshoe led his people to defend their land against the invaders (primarily the Boers) in the nineteenth century, thus creating the country of Lesotho.  None of the Fusi students had ever been there so we decided to organise a big bus to take all the English and Basotho students on a joint school trip (generously paid for by the students from Cokethorpe School).
There was great excitement throughout the day – many of the Fusi students had rarely left the village and certainly never for their own pleasure.  Some stared out of the bus window in amazement for the whole journey;  others literally danced in the aisle once the music was on (no health & safety worries here!)
There was a very steep climb to the top, followed by an interesting history lesson from our guide and a tour of the old village site and the royal graveyard.
We took the opportunity of a photo shoot of students and staff of both schools:

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A great day out.

19 July, 2009

The morning after

There was a lot of clearing up to do.  Everyone mucked in and the school was soon back to normal.  Many things had to be returned to the village so we used local transport…

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The Fusi students excitedly hitched rides in the smart hired minibus (belonging to the English students) and the English students excitedly hitched rides in the ox cart.

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Afterwards, we showed them the video footage of the event.  They were enthralled.

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18 July, 2009

Ha Fusi – the BIG day

What a wonderful day we had – I hardly know where to begin, so I will start at the beginning….

The traditional way to welcome important visitors to the village is to escort them in on horseback.

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This was a most amazing spectacle – with about twenty horses galloping around the school compound, not to mention stampeding cattle.  The Bishop and Andy (the founder of the project – read the beginning of our blog) arrived on their horses, the Bishop looking exceedingly more comfortable than Andy!

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They were welcomed by the students of the school who sang a welcome song.  Singing is such an integral part of the culture here and they sang beautifully in four part harmony.  I was so proud of them.

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The proceedings began with a full Holy Communion which included the blessing of the school.  We had a Bishop and five priests so I think the school is well and truly blest.  During the service, they processed round the buildings, sprinkling holy water and swinging the incense into the rooms, with appropriate prayers.  The churchmanship around here is high, so we enjoy a lot of ritual in the services.

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Ribbons were cut before gaining access.

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After the service, was a programme of speeches (lots of them – about twelve I think!) and entertainment.  We had speeches from everyone who thought they ought to make a speech – school, church, education ministry, village chief etc etc, and the more important they were the longer was their speech!.  Interspersed with these were entertainment slots by the students. They have been practising their songs and traditional dances for weeks and they were brilliant.

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The day finished with what everyone had really come for – the food!  Food is very important to people who are permanently hungry. The women worked so hard – they even slept in the building the night before.  We estimate 250 -300 people were there and they all got something to eat.

Everyone said what a great day it had been – it’s rare for a village like Ha Fusi to have such an important gathering and I feel very happy and a lot more relaxed today.

Now the real work for developing the school begins.

7 July, 2009

Great News

Fusi Secondary School is now officially registered with the Lesotho government.
This was my prime target when I arrived in January.  Yes, it’s taken six months but the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.

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We have heard just in time for the Bishop’s visit to the school next week.  He is coming to bless the buildings and school, but the party will now be expanded into a major feast celebrating the official opening at the same time.  The Basotho people are quite clear that no party is complete without plenty of food.  The Minister of Education has been invited and it is going to be a great day for the village.

Afterwards, there is a lot of work to be done, and some delicate issues to be resolved, but I’m sure it will all unfold on the blog.

God is working his purpose out.

5 July, 2009

extra – curricular activities

The Bishop of Lesotho is coming to Fusi Secondary School in a few weeks time to bless the school buildings, so there is quite a bit of preparation to do.
The road to Ha Fusi village is a dirt road but of quite reasonable quality.  To reach the school, you have to leave this road and drive on a road which has been badly eroded by the rains.  Since people will be arriving in cars, it was clear that this road needed to be repaired.  On the basis of “if a job needs doing, do it yourself” we finished lessons early one day and took the students down to tackle the job.  I felt like teaching them to sing “Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go” but I think it would have taken too much explanation.

Here are some of the girls who have been collecting small stones to fill up the potholes.

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Here are the boys (or most of them!) digging up some gravel to create a new surface.

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How many schools in Britain have “road repair” on the curriculum?  Our students didn’t think anything of it – it was just another job that needed doing.

4 July, 2009

What will David be doing?

That was a fairly common question before we came out to Lesotho and it has been asked again while we are here.  My standard answer is “I support my wife” which usually satisfies the enquirer.  But what have I been doing?

In  fact routine domestic chores do take up a bit more time here than they did in the UK.  With no transport of our own, there’s no question of doing a big weekly supermarket shop, so there are always two or three trips each week into Teyateyaneng.  And you can’t guarantee success each time: it’s quite common to come back having failed to find basics such as semi-skimmed milk or cheese.  Of course, there’s no postal delivery to the house, so we have to call at the post office and check our box (and go inside to see whether there is post but it has been too cold for anybody to go out and put it into our box).

I have been doing various things to support the school.  I put together a system of accounts (both paper and computer) so that we can record income and expenditure and also compare it against the budget we put together when we arrived.  Every month we update the records and I tell Elizabeth how much cash the school should have: she then counts it and (usually) is pleasantly surprised to find the exact amount is there.  Every three months, I do a variance analysis and send a report in to the charity (the Rafiki Thabo Foundation) so that they can see how the need for money compares with the budget: so far it has been good news each time.  In addition, my typing skills (two fingers on each hand) came into use earlier in the year when I was asked to type up examination papers: the diagrams in the science papers brought their own challenges.

I am occasionally asked by people to help with their computers, and I found myself designing and delivering a course on how to use Excel spreadsheets to one of our neighbours.  I then found myself giving the same tuition to a Roman Catholic nun in Roma.  They have a conference centre there and so it was a small step further to put together a spreadsheet so that they can record and analyse their income and expenditure.  She was so excited when she saw how the spreadsheet worked – and could be used so simply – that she giggled in glee and gave me a hug!  I will be going to see her again on Tuesday to see how it is working in practice.

The most time consuming project I have had here was when I worked through some of the Anglican Diocesan accounts, trying to work out whether loans had been repaid, and generally tracking funds moving between the current account and a dozen other accounts over a period of eight years.  It was a financial version of a jigsaw puzzle at times as bank statements for an account could turn up almost anywhere amongst the box full of lever arch files that were delivered to me.

The link with the Diocese has continued and I am currently compiling their first Handbook for Churchwardens and Councillors.  Reading the Canons of the Church of Southern Africa and the Acts of the Diocese – which provide the basis and are currently handed out to Churchwardens – quickly convinces you of the need to gather together the relevant sections, put them into some sensible order and make it a little more intelligible.  The first version seemed to be received well and I’m currently working on adding some extra material.

There is other work for the Diocese in the offing, but I won’t second guess at this stage as to whether the projects will come to anything.  When I came out here, I decided that I didn’t want to seek out ways in which I could help but would, rather, respond positively when people asked for help.  That way, I thought, there would be more chance of the work being productive and of being of continued use after we had left.  I also thought it would take about six months to settle in and for people to realise that I would be around for a while and could be of use to them.  That does seem to be the way things have turned out and it will be interesting to see how they evolve over the coming months.

3 July, 2009

Our Boxes Arrive

The Durham Diocese is twinned with Lesotho and has been very active for many years.  Before we left England, we learnt that they were filling a forty foot container with school furniture and computers to send out to Lesotho.  So we packed a few things for Fusi school into boxes and arranged for them to be taken up to the north-east to be loaded on the container.

It takes a long time to collect enough to fill a container that size and it eventually left England late in April.  It arrived at Lesotho Durham Link’s headquarters in Maseru on Saturday afternoon and we were there to help unload.  The picture shows Stephen Mabula, who heads the Link in Lesotho, welcoming the arrival of the container.

Container Arrival

Stephen was soon joined in the container by Rob Bianchi, joint Chief Executive of the Link, who happened to be here from the UK, to start the unloading.  It was mixed work: ranging from manhandling sturdy workbenches to carefully unloading dozens of computer monitors.

Container Unloading

We eventually came to our three boxes which arrived unscathed – thanks Duncan for taking the boxes up to the north-east for us.

Our Boxes

The main item in our boxes was a laser printer, which has already been put into use to print out a letter to one of the Fusi students from the person who is sponsoring her fees.  The printer should save the school a lot of money in printing and photocopying costs over the months to come.

Elizabeth is also hoping to have some of the school furniture from the container and a sprinkling of computers for the school.