30 September, 2009

Optimism

If you are looking for an optimist, you need look no further than a (minibus) taxi driver in Lesotho.

When looking for fares, they assume that anyone standing within twenty or thirty yards of the roadside is keen to become a passenger – even if they are standing on the other side of the road and clearly waiting for a taxi in the other direction.

They also optimistically expect to receive a text from a friend at any moment and (because they cannot hear messages arrive over the volume of the music they are playing) will frequently consult their mobile phones or telephone their friend as they drive along to find out why they have not received a message.

Whilst you and I may see a traffic light showing red, a taxi driver only sees one that has just changed from green, or is about to change to green, so he can just sneak through.

Road markings have a special meaning to the taxi driver.  The double white lines in the middle of of the road on a bend or near the crest of a hill carry the message “yes, overtake here, there will be nothing coming the other way”.

The taxi driver also sees road layout differently.  In the suburbs as you approach Maseru, the footpaths at the side of the road have been conveniently placed so that he can undertake a slow moving line of traffic to emerge a few vehicles further ahead, even if it means weaving in and out of telegraph poles and other obstructions.

Yesterday, David travelled in a taxi where the driver had a very specialised view of road layout.  The main road into Maseru was very busy so the taxi driver took the alternative route in past the reservoir.  At one point, the incoming and outgoing lanes split for a few hundred yards – separated by a deep ditch and mature trees.  Since the lane into the city was very busy, our driver opted for the outgoing lane.  Coming the other way was a four-plus-one (taxi car) who seemed to have a more conventional approach to road layout.  He drove straight at our taxi, forcing the driver to come to a halt.  There was then an exchange between the drivers as they outlined their different views on lane usage, before we continued on our way in on the outgoing lane.

When he told Elizabeth about his experience, she just reminded him, “I’ve told you not to look when you’re on a taxi.”

26 September, 2009

School Management Board

We are beginning to feel like a proper school now – we have a management board (school governors) which met for the first time today.  There are representatives from the church, the parents, the teachers and the village chief.

The meeting went well and it was good to feel the real support from the local community.  All of the members except one had attended our Open Day.  Much of it was briefing the members on where we are now, but there were ideas from them as to where we should be going in the near future.  The chief indicated that he wants to give us more land – partly for playing fields and partly for agriculture projects by the students – essential education in such a rural area.

Things are not all smooth however and the government is dragging its feet over its promises to help with staff salaries.  I am visiting someone on Monday to try and push things along a bit.  The other difficult thing at the moment is the terrible exchange rate between the pound and the South African Rand which has fallen from 14.5 in January to 11.8 today.  It means that, along with inflation in Lesotho, the British money goes nowhere near as far as it did.

25 September, 2009

Marketing

Fusi Secondary School is in a small village and serves other scattered villages so news does not always travel fast (unless free food is available!!!)  We decided that to ensure a good-sized school roll next January we ought to employ some marketing strategies.

David organised a workshop for staff in July and a plan was produced which we are now executing.  It was decided to hold an Open Day (a novel idea round here) for the top classes of the primary schools in our catchment area.  Our staff have recently visited the primary schools and invited the children with their teachers to come for the afternoon and see what we have to offer.  They all came on Wednesday this week for a couple of hours.

We watched groups of them walking across the fields from different directions and as soon as they arrived, they were invited to take part in a quiz for which they had to explore all the different parts of the school to find the answers – classrooms, library, water pump etc etc.

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Naturally, the computers were very popular – most of them have never touched one, in many cases not even seen one, before.

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They had such fun it was difficult to get them together, but we managed it, played some singing games (“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” etc) and gave them a short taster lesson.  The village chief came and gave some encouraging words (that was a real bonus) and we gave them all half an orange which went down well.  There were about 120 visitors and they all seemed very enthusiastic.

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20 September, 2009

Weekend Away

Elizabeth writes:

A couple of American Peace corps friends invited us to join them for a weekend away in Bloemfontein.  “Bloem” is the capital of the Free State province of South Africa and the nearest sizeable town to Leostho.
It took us about four hours to get there and we checked into a nice guest house where we had booked our simple two-bedroomed suite.

Now, if you know me at all, you will know that I hate shops and above all I hate shopping malls – but a weekend away is well, a weekend away.  When we arrived at the mall, I felt quite overcome – I am just not used to the lights, shops, restaurants and above all, the choice. However, I soon adjusted and spent a lovely weekend, browsing, shopping (books, jigsaws and mint sauce!) eating and visiting the cinema.

We fitted in three films (probably more than I have seen in Nottingham in the last five years!), lots of food and general relaxation.

It’s funny though, I’m glad to be home and feel quite content in our little simple home – until the next time we feel the need to get away.

14 September, 2009

Garden Help from NOGs

Before we left England, David met with the committee of Nottingham Organic Gardeners and talked to them about our idea of building a keyhole garden at the school.  They showed interest and asked to be kept up-to-date with developments.  So, once the garden was built and seeds and tools were needed, we thought we would see whether NOGs could help.

We asked whether they could donate a watering can, some hand forks and packets of seeds to get the garden going.

Sparing no puns, they dug deep and forked out enough to buy all that we had asked for – with enough left over to buy a full-sized rake.  (For the last few months, the school had been making do with half a rake after the head of the school’s rake broke.)

Thank You NOGs

As part of the Business Education course, the students have to run a small business project.  Now they have the tools and seeds, the students have decided to try their hand at growing vegetables for sale.  So, thanks to NOGs, we’re looking forward to the students learning the value of growing their own vegetables in more ways than one.

9 September, 2009

Computers

The computers are now working at school….

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….and very popular as you can see.

7 September, 2009

Fusi School Newsletters

We have launched a newsletter about developments at Fusi Secondary
School, which we intend to publish every couple of months or so.

As well as keeping supporters up-to-date with news, we hope that it
will also be of use in support of fund-raising activities.

You can receive details of each newsletter as it is issued by sending
an e-mail with Subscribe as its subject to friend-request@FusiSchool.org

6 September, 2009

An apple for the teacher?…not for the squeamish!

Early last week, one of my students, Khacha, took me to one side and said “My father says you should come to our place this Saturday – he would like to give you a sheep before he returns to South Africa”.
So dutifully on Saturday, I met Khacha at the bus stop and he escorted me along the path to the village which took us fifty minutes to walk.  The family were all gathered around either talking or just sitting.  I was warmly welcomed and shown the sheep which was to be mine.

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I was then taken into the house where I was invited to sit on the only chair at the table – very much the honoured guest.  Apart from Khacha, no-one spoke much English (a couple of them could manage my equivalent of Sesotho) but lots of smiles go a long way.

I decided it would be more fun to be with everyone outside, just in time to see four men pinning my sheep to the ground and dispatching it to sheep heaven.  Strangely, I did not find the experience distasteful – the sheep had clearly been well-looked after and the slaughter was quick and efficient.  There followed a careful removal of the skin, and the meat was carefully cut into pieces.

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Once I had expressed my gratitude, I said that I would be only too pleased to share it – this was clearly the right response as the family party was planned to continue until Sunday.  I still came away with a quarter of the animal which was packed up for me.

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The walk home seemed even further with my extra load, but we enjoyed the first cut for lunch today, and the rest is in our freezer for future enjoyment.

Spring

Spring has definitely arrived.  We have stopped using our electric fire and put away the winter blanket.  The mornings can still be a little nippy, but the daytime would qualify as a “glorious summer’s day” in England, and the evenings are pleasantly warm.  Later in the year, it will get hotter and the rains will come.

In the last week, the peach blossom has appeared and brought some colour to the landscape.  Even the wizened old tree outside our front door is making a fine display.

Peach blossom

As Elizabeth walks to school, she passes plots that have been ploughed and are waiting for maize to be planted.  However, a lot of the plots are untouched and are likely to remain so, with their owners either unable to afford the cost of ploughing or planting, or rendered too ill by the AIDS pandemic.  Food production has been declining in Lesotho since the 1980s, and the 2009 harvest is reported to be 10% down on the previous year – mainly because land is being left unfarmed.

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Gardens near us are being dug and seeds sown and watered and the scarecrows at ‘Me Pholosi’s have been refurbished in readiness for their vigil.

Scarecrow 2

2 September, 2009

Thank you

I’ve been shopping this week.

Those of you following the blog will remember that we were given five computers for the school.  The only problem was that we do not have an electricity supply, and there was nowhere safe enough to store them.

Due to the generosity of some of our friends in Nottingham we were promised a generator, and other donations meant that we could afford to pay for security bars for one of the classrooms. We have also arranged to build the classroom dividing walls up to the roof.  This will improve security, but will also mean that we do not have to listen to everybody else’s lessons during our own.  So I’ve been shopping – for bricks, cement, burglar bars, generator, petrol etc etc.

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David kindly came to school to get the computers working (which they did!) and work out what extra cables we will need to set them up in a classroom.

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The students are so excited, and ask me every day when they will be able to use them.
Soon, I hope.