23 May, 2010

The Big 6-0

Elizabeth writes:

I am not usually bothered by the passing of “significant” birthdays, but when I received my teacher’s pension statement last week, this one definitely had a different feel about it.

I was not sure how we were going to celebrate it but I was told to pack a few things on Friday and bring my passport.  Things were looking up.

This time I have to say David did me proud.  We went to Ladybrand, a small town in South Africa not far from the Lesotho border and booked into the honeymoon suite of a delightful guest house.  The room was wonderful – thatched roof, log fire, hot shower (a treat for us here) and more floor space than our Lesotho home.  Wonderful.
I was treated to massage treatments, lovely meals and a 3-hour horse ride up into the hills for some spectacular views in the specially-ordered sunshine.

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A perfect weekend.  My only concern now is how to reciprocate when David reaches the milestone in a fortnight’s time.

16 May, 2010

Health Care in Lesotho

David writes:

Health care seems to have been on our minds recently.

Despite it being the approach of winter, when the insects usually disappear, Elizabeth has had quite a few bites.  A couple have turned septic and the one on her finger eventually hurt so much that she sought help from a local doctor, who had been recommended to her.  The consultation was very professional and she was given an injection and a course of antibiotics.  The total cost was R150 – about a quarter of the excess on our insurance policy, so no claim to make.  The antibiotics are doing their job and the finger is gradually sorting itself out.

Yesterday, we went up to see friends at Mapoteng.  I needed to be there earlier, so Elizabeth followed later, also travelling by minibus taxi.  Elizabeth’s journey took a little longer as they undertook ambulance duty along the way.  At one of the villages, they took on board a sick woman who had been brought to the main road in an ox cart.   Passengers moved out of the seat behind the driver; and the woman, who was so ill she could not move, was laid along the seat.  When the taxi reached Mapoteng, it diverted off the road to the Seventh Day Adventist hospital there and somebody went to find a wheelchair and took her into the hospital.  Not a very dignified way to get to hospital, perhaps – and there is no public ambulance service here in Lesotho, just the occasional ambulance attached to a hospital – but at least she had gone to what we have been told is the best hospital in the country.

A neighbour was less fortunate.  In the evening we had a telephone call to tell us about a neighbour who had collapsed – about our age and no previous symptoms, but thought perhaps to have been a diabetic coma – and had been taken to the local hospital in TY, which is the hospital for the Berea district.  One of the problems at the TY hospital is that no doctors are based there.  The neighbour was eventually transferred to Mapoteng, where, we were informed, he had passed away.

Very early on in our stay here, we established that if we needed emergency medical care then Mapoteng was an option if it was minor, but otherwise we would have to get ourselves into South Africa and go to Bloemfontein.  The universal advice was not to go near the Queen Elizabeth II hospital – or Queen 2 as it is known – in Maseru.

The nurses at Queen II have been in the news recently.  They went on strike over working conditions.  One newspaper (the Monitor) showed a placard of one of the striking nurses that said “How can we look after rats and patients at the same time, let alone cockroaches?”  There were also complaints about a lack of drugs and items such as latex gloves (in a country where the official figure for HIV/AIDS infection is 31%).  The next week another newspaper (Lesotho Times – see online at www.lestimes.com) reported that the government had responded to the protest by sacking the striking nurses, althought this seems to have been withdrawn later and the nurses have gone back to work but are reported as saying that none of the issues they raised are being addressed.

In August, we are told, VSO will be sending out a group of volunteer doctors to work at Queen II.  They will, no doubt, have some stories to tell when they finish their placement.  In the meantime, we shall try to stay healthy.

7 May, 2010

Parents’ meeting

Elizabeth writes:

Twice a year, parents are invited to school to be updated on news and reminded of their obligations (i.e. pay the school fees).  There is no discussion of any child’s progress – that is communicated by an extremely brief report – parents are usually very deferential to teachers here.
So, all in all,not very exciting, but the parents were very positive about the school and pleased to hear of progress made and plans for the future.

However, I was very amused to see that a few parents did not walk to school like everyone else – they used this mode of transport….

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6 May, 2010

Gates

Elizabeth writes:

I’ve been scavenging again.

Since the theft of bricks from school last year, we have been more aware of security at school.  We replaced the night watchman and we put together a temporary gate made from posts and barbed wire.  One day, as I was walking back to our house behind the parish church, I noticed that there were several gates which had clearly been left open for years.  Just what we needed!

I wrote to the parish council and they agreed to give two gates to our school (which is a church school, and therefore part of the wider parish).  David spent a day separating the gates from their posts and we managed to get them transported to school.
Today, with the help of the school generator and drills and tools belonging to the principal, several students helped to hang the gates at school.  I am always impressed with how proficient these boys are at manual work.

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We are very pleased with the end result which is more secure and more professional than before.  (Yes, we realise we still have to remove the old gatepost!)

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