Lesotho: Setting the Scene
A small girl and her mother trot down the road in blue hats with yellow trim walk down, enjoying the mild morning sun on their way to the market. A matching yellow umbrella shades their heads. In the afternoon, it will serve as a shield them from the daily monsoon storms that pelt the ruddy clay plateaus surrounding Maseru. The storms and their lightning spikes strike suddenly, frequently and unexpectedly, now that climate change has turned the seasons topsy-turvy.
From the paved road above Maseru, the picturesque patches of village – of thatch-roofed rondavels outside of town, brick block homes on the edge of town, white cinderblock homes in civil servants’ villages, meandering apartments, and slump-block schools and buildings, all tell a story of increasing development.
Dams have garnered the most precious resource, water, to export into neighboring South Africa, displacing some nomadic Highlanders as refugees now stuck in the cities. While still too many children serve as heads of households for families orphaned by disease or by parents traveling to work in South Africa, still greater numbers of people striving for self-sufficiency exist here than in past decades.
More families in the city have electricity and water than in some developing nations. More young workers have discovered their entrepreneurial skills. The National Curriculum Development Center has developed an integrated curriculum, a syllabus designed to harness the country’s creativity as adroitly as it harvests Lesotho’s abundant water, aiming to benefit sustainable development and the longevity of the nation’s long tradition of unity and morality.
Two malls, one owned by the king, feature Western-looking stores with clever names and marketing campaigns, where white collar workers spend their salaries and factory workers might spend a month’s salary on a suitcase or bicycle.
Still, like many Africans and even more so, the Basotho people protect tradition. They pray at the beginning of every meeting. They greet each stranger who passes. They value the keeping of promises. They ask about the health and well-being of the family—and on the same dirt road where the little girl walked, every family grows its garden of maize and spinach, bedecked with purple mint, wildflower relatives of the deadnettle and henbit that grow near cornfields. Every yard, serving four families, also sports a healthy peach tree or an avocado plant.
Along the road, commuters walk to work wearing business suits, headdresses and calico skirts, and every line of fashion in between. A traditional man remembers life in the past century. He tugs at his Basotho blanket, tips his conical hat, the mokoratlo, and stops to greet a stranger with a warm, “Dumela, Mme. Tell me about your day, about your walk, about the place where you stay when you go home on the plane…Your Southwestern mountains look like our mountains? Yes, is that so?… I dreamed of going there once myself. Oh, but I must take my leave now, so I will trust you to this kind lady walking past. She will take you safely over the puddles to your destination”—and indeed, she does.
Meanwhile, up in the Highlands, the sheep and goat and cow tenders on either side of the two-lane road gaze over mountains and valleys infinite as green blankets shaken out and laid over bushels of apples or maize, some flat, some pointed, all stretching out forever. Clouds cast shadows over the mountains’ shoulders. Standing alone, staring into the maw of the infinite canyons, you might expect a silence equally infinite. Instead you invariably hear the tinkle of a goat’s bell, reminding you that you are never alone. Human and animal settlers claim this scene as their daily workplace as well as their commute.
A land where grace survives, where concern for the health of a stranger’s brother still takes precedence over other priorities, a country whose natural beauty rivals that of any other, the mountain kingdom of Lesotho land and its Basotho people, gently lace the heartstrings.
2020: Full-Circle Learning Status Report
Full-Circle Learning cultivated its early relationship with schools in Mokhotlong. Students in that highland community helped their people develop sustainability in growing trees and preparing cropland over the course of a generation. As our 2017 FCL Community Impact Study identified the value of the project, as well as the challenge of sustaining programs in a mountain region where teachers often matriculated to the capital city, bringing their skills with them, it became prudent to collaborate with the stakeholders who had used this example as inspiration in redesigning their national curriculum goals. They saw the value of our common vision.
Maureen Mungai, the long-term Full-Circle Learning Consultant to Lesotho, returned to Lesotho with Sana Moussavi. They began to work with the National Curriculum Development Center to assist in aligning the goals outcomes of providers of higher education and the new integrated education syllabus, working through designated pilot schools and supported by the Inspectorate of the Lesotho Ministry of Education.
Mokhotlong schools would continue to receive training support, but the impetus for educating new and existing teachers and for integrating the goals of the national curriculum with the practical tools offered available through Full-Circle Learning would enhance the country’s advance toward greater self-sufficiency, resiliency, purpose, for the integration of character and academic development among its students and for the achievement of sustainable development goals in its communities. Sana Moussavi, the EHG Corporate Philanthropy specialist, would intermittently return to provide continuity as FCL identified an on-the-ground liaison who could offer support for the first African nation to meld higher education training, Education Ministry support and National Curriculum elements to build an inter-connected approach to community transformation, through Full-Circle Learning. By the end of 2019, the stakeholders were ready for the next step.