11 February, 2010

For their convenience

Elizabeth writes:

During the last year I have reported the desperate lack of toilets at school several times.
People back home have continued to donate generously so that we have now been able to build a proper set of toilets for the students to use.  They might appear basic by Western standards, but they are  perfectly adequate and appropriate for an area where there is no mains water.

The photo shows the new block alongside the shacks we have been using until now.  The builders tools are there because he is now building a couple of staff toilets (complete with doors, a luxury not enjoyed by the students!)


David writes:

“Don’t believe everything they tell you” can be a useful thing to remember, particularly if you come out to live in Lesotho.

One of the things we were told when we came here was that, living on the Mission, we wouldn’t need to pay for our electricity.  That was because the electricity sub-station at the bottom of the hill was built on Mission land and, rather than pay rent, the electricity company gave the Mission free electricity.

However the electricity man who called last year had a different interpretation to offer.  They had been upgrading the cables and had discovered that the electricity to the Mission came via the High School, so they had inadvertently been paying for the Mission’s electricity.  His solution was to have a meter installed for every property on the Mission.  But, at around £80 a time for 18 properties (mostly a single, small room) the Parish Council looked for a compromise.  They eventually decided to put in three meters -one for the church, one for the Priest’s house, and one for us.  And came to an agreement with the High School to pay them so much a month for the rest of the (unmetered) electricity.

The big day for the installation of our meter came this week.  Well, actually, it came on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  It wouldn’t be true to say that every part of the job was done twice, but it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say so.  I kept a list of the things I was asked for: an extension lead (they had to reconnect the electricity so they could drill a hole in the wall to put the cable through and the lead on the drill wasn’t long enough); a tape measure (to find out where to drill the hole); a small hammer (for the cable clips); matches (not sure what these were for); and ice cubes (again, no idea what they were for, but they were too big to fit into the plastic container they were destined for).  But, as you can see, we are now up and running.

It’s a pre-paid system.  As the man explained, in the old days people never got around to paying if they got electricity on credit.  Remember there’s no delivery of post to your door, and many people live in rented accommodation and just move on leaving the landlord to discuss the unpaid bill with the electricty company.  Electricity is said to be expensive here.  For the financially aware, it’s costing us R100 for 140kWh – about 6p per kWh: I’ve no idea how that compares with Britain.