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Education

Education

A High School Trains Students with a Curriculum Oriented Towards Practicality in a Rural Mountanous Area in Lesotho

This project aims to provide the students of St. Barnabas High School with training that will allow them either to enroll in vocational and technical schools or to undertake income-generating activities in the difficult context of rural Lesotho.

1. Context

On the dusty road, the car overtook five horsemen whose horses set off at a gallop in a cloud of shining dust. At the foothills of the Maluti mountains, St. Barnabas High School dominated the surroudings. No trees. Just rocks, an exhausted land and an incredibly bright luminosity. As if we were closer to the sun.

We followed the principal of the school who had received a short notice about our visit. Here is the pig project, here is the dairy cows project, here the vegetable project and here the walnut project.
Are the 365 students present in the school just here to run projects? Of course not, but he thought we were just interested in projects. After all, were we visiting him on behalf of donors?

2. The Challenge

The principal arrived in the school more than 15 years ago. He wanted his school to become dynamic and to provide students with training that would allow them either to enroll in vocational and technical schools or to undertake income-generating activities in the difficult context of rural Lesotho. Too many students had spent their years in high school as a useless period of their life whereas their parents had placed high hopes and invested a lot of money in their education.

3. The actors

The high school is staffed with 18 trainers among which 16 are contracted by the Ministry of Education. The school is private since it is owned by the local Anglican church. Up to now, the principal has been left very much independent - he even suppressed religious lessons due to lack of proper teachers and a high rate of failure at the national exams. The school has a capacity to train 360 students, 60% of which are female. It is supervised by a School Committee that comprises two parent representatives, two representatives of the school owner (in this case the local church), one staff representative, the local chief and the principal. The committee meets regularly every three months, or more if needed, to plan the development of school activities and the policies affecting the school.

4. The methods used to face the challenge

Thanks to dynamic information campaigns by the principal of the school, the school benefited from aid from several foreign donors, which allowed it to launch practical activities that became the originality of the school. Curricula have been modified accordingly and every student has the duty and the opportunity to be practically exposed to agricultural, building, welding, or even typing and computer experiences. The principal, on behalf of the school committee and with its agreement, presented specific projects to the donors. Agreements were signed and the school was receiving the budget in installments once the work was executed.

All the money was managed by the principal and this allowed for original arrangements. In 1994, a summer camp was organized for the students to dig a canal from a reservoir built on the mountain above the school. This generated a very communicative atmosphere between the teachers and the students, which still remains.

From small projects in the beginning, the school is now able to manage bigger investments such as the construction of dormitories on its own funds (with parents' contributions).

5. The results

The rate of students admitted into vocational training keeps growing. Last year, two former students graduated and came back to the school as teachers. This impressed the students and reinforced the meaning they gave to their training.

6. The future

As the school depends on a generator and solar panels to get its electricity, the school committee is now lobbying the local authorities to draw an electricity line to reach the school. Though this is costly, it will allow students, who will all be boarders in the school as of the next academic year, to use their evenings in a better way.


The first impression we had rapidly faded away. The high school and its principal genuinely have a vision. Projects are seen as ways to improve the education given in the school. The way these projects have been implemented has built a strong capacity in the school, which is now able to invest and handle new investment projects without external assistance.

Some of the projects were funded by the micro-project management unit of the European Development Fund.



THE AUTHORS

Thierry Lassalle
France
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Education

-Education: An International Perspective for the Debate
-The Good Fortunes and Misfortunes of Continuing Education in France
-Activities
-Proposal Paper
-Education for an Active and Responsible Citizenship
-Documents
-Experience Reports
-Participants and Interested Persons


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