31 January, 2010

Snakes Alive!

Elizabeth writes:

Astute readers will remember my encounter with a snake on my way home from school.  This next encounter was closer to home – in fact IN my home.
Thursday evening (it has taken a few days to bring myself to write about this!) I went into the bathroom to find a long (about 1.5metres) black snake wriggling around in there.  Now I am not usually squeamish nor prone to hysterical outbursts, but this was one step too far by the animal kingdom.  By the time I had got David’s attention and returned to the bathroom, the said creature had escaped back through the hole by the water-pipe.
I was not happy for the rest of the evening and didn’t sleep well that night.  People who have asked me to identify the variety have clearly never had the same experience;  nor did I ask it if it was poisonous; nor did I go to fetch the camera.  I simply DO NOT WANT SNAKES IN MY HOUSE.
When I left for school on Friday, David was given instructions to block up the hole.  He did.

29 January, 2010

Feeding the Children

Elizabeth writes:

One of the developments I was very keen to see at school was a feeding programme to provide school lunches.  It has taken a great deal of organisation but I am delighted that lunch was provided on the first day of term and every day since.

One of the parents cooks the food in her home and brings it up to school using local transport!


The food is simple, but nourishing, consisting of maize meal and cabbage on some days and thick soup and a large hunk of bread on others.  It is good to see them eating:  so many of the students, particularly the boys, are permanently hungry.




We have been given a field by the village chief and planted our own maize.  Last week, it needed weeding so the students brought hoes and spent the morning working to improve the yield that will be their lunch later in the year.  It is also seen as part of their Agriculture project, a subject they now study at school.


23 January, 2010

Start of Term

Elizabeth writes:

The last two weeks have been pretty hectic – and that in itself is a relief.
After registration the week before, we were very pleased to start the term last week with sixty students in total.  Children then continued to arrive and by the end of the week there were over seventy.  Even now, we expect the roll to increase.  January is a very difficult time to find school fees (after Christmas) so many are waiting for the end of the month to pay.  I send messages for children to come anyway, but they often do not even have shoes to wear.


You will notice how many are not in school uniform – they will pay for that even later.  Meanwhile, we insist they wear their previous school uniform if possible, although this is usually pretty scruffy and always far too small!

After many delays from the Ministry of Education Teaching Services Department (known as TSD and I am trying to think of a suitable acronym which fits this!) we have finally got approval for a principal.  We have been extremely blessed to gain the services of Mr Thabelo Ramaqele.  He has recently taken early retirement from the Ministry of Education in order to return to leading a school.  The one he had lined up for himself did not work out for political reasons, and he has agreed to come to Fusi. He has always been a great support to the school during its development and I feel sure things are really going to move forward now.  The photo shows Mr Ramaqele being presented to the school by the chairman of the management board, the village chief and the vice-chairperson of the board.


15 January, 2010

Getting Ready for Food

Elizabeth writes:

One of the improvements at school this year is to provide lunches.  With no cooking facilities at school, one of the women in the village is going to prepare the food at her home.  She had hoped to borrow a large pot,but has been unable to do so, so we have had to provide one.

Madley Brook Primary School near Witney gave us an extremely generous donation a few months ago which was mainly spent on sports equipment.  However, there was enough left over to buy the pot.  The pot is a large black cast iron cauldron and designed for wood fires.


I went to town this morning and found one just the right size.  After negotiating a discount (I always ask for one for school) I went outside to find a lad with a wheelbarrow.  For about 80p he loaded the pot onto his barrow and we set off up the street to my rendezvous.  This meeting was with the driver of a small minibus who runs an occasional shuttle service to the village of Ha Fusi.  He happily took the pot in the van promising to leave it at the village shop and send a message to my cook that she could collect it from there.

I got a message later that it had arrived safely.  It was only then that I realised how much I have adapted as it all seemed a normal way of getting something delivered.

8 January, 2010


Elizabeth writes:

I can’t believe it, but we’ve been here a year now.  In some ways, the time has flown by and in others, it feels as is we’ve been here for ever.

It seems to be expected of volunteers that they give a resume of how it feels to have completed a year, so here are some of my positive and negative thoughts about my time in Lesotho:



  • Feeling useful

  • Feeling I’ve achieved something

  • Being made to feel welcome

  • Everyone in the local town knowing who I am and calling me by name across the street (reassuring and welcoming)

  • Beautiful scenery

  • People always have time for you

  • Holding a conversation with someone whose English is worse than my Sesotho, and both of us ending up laughing, the best of friends

  • Getting a parcel at the Post Office :-)

  • Keeping in touch with friends via e-mail (much faster and more reliable than when we arrived )

  • Being part of the community

  • Teaching – children are the same everywhere

  • Travelling on public transport with the locals (feel part of the community)

  • Meeting government employees at high levels who have been friendly and helpful

  • Singing hymns in Sesotho!






  • Missing the family back home

  • Frustration dealing with government departments who are, at best, inefficient and, at worst, obstructive

  • Everyone in the local town knowing who I am and calling me by name across the street (Sometimes irritating, especially if you fancy a bottle of wine from the offie)

  • No-one keeping to time

  • Watching a country slowly die from AIDS

  • Litter everywhere

  • Men peeing in public

  • Travelling on public transport with the locals (cramped, stuffy and uncomfortable)

  • Teaching in a classroom which is cold in winter, hot in summer and deafening in the rain

There is still so much to be done.  The new school year is about to begin with some big challenges to face.
One thing is certain – our time here will have had a big impact on our attitude to life when we return home.

7 January, 2010

Exam results

Today was the publication of Junior Certificate results.

We had four students in Form C (equivalent of British Year 10) and they all wanted to continue their education at High School.

We were absolutely delighted to learn that all four students gained a second class pass.  This is the standard required by High schools for entry into Form D.

Since Ha Fusi village has no mobile phone signal, I went to the village this morning to find the students to tell them the good news.  There was great rejoicing and we celebrated by buying coke and biscuits in the village shop.  A great treat for them.

6 January, 2010


Elizabeth writes:

School has been on holiday for over a month now, but I have not.

Last July, when we were registered, the government promised us a grant to pay the principal. Since then we have also been promised a grant for a teacher, and we hope we may get two more in April if we recruit enough students.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy is alive and well here. The paperwork to be processed has moved from desk to desk in government offices, and I have had many forays into Maseru, chasing it. It is almost unbelievable that we have still not had the go-ahead to interview and appoint the principal. Yes, I know, it is January and the school year starts next week, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. The longer they can hold out, the less money they will have to spend.

In the meantime, we are employing teachers on a temporary basis with no promise of work after a few months – not the best incentive for commitment from the staff. Fortunately, for us, unemployment is high here, even with teachers (except Science and Maths of which there is an acute shortage) so they are mostly grateful to have some work.

I’m sure it is all going to work out in time, but I am not very good at being patient in situations like this.

I hope it will not be long before a photo of the new principal appears on this page.