The COVID-19 pandemic presented a host of challenges to Lesotho’s schooling, including its FutureLife-Now! programme, which depends on schools as entry points to reach and support young people.
But, as in the other Future Life-Now! pilot countries, technology came to the rescue. With technical assistance from MIET AFRICA and COVID-19 emergency support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools were equipped with solar power, Wi-Fi and the necessary hardware (including a laptop, data projector and screen) to enable ongoing interaction. Utilizing online or e-platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams, meetings and workshops were able to continue during lockdown and school closures.
According to Rantsane Kuleile, Lesotho’s FutureLife-Now! Country Manager, every cloud has a silver lining. “COVID-19 has been a game changer, in that we got to appreciate the important role played by technology in teaching and learning. These effective e-platforms have been established to allow for online communication and capacity-building sessions both by the MIET AFRICA Lesotho in-country team as well as nurses in the nearby health facilities.”
On 23 April this year, Ntlhoi Motsamai, Lesotho’s Honourable Minister of Education and Training, together with the MIET AFRICA in-country team, officially launched the FutureLife-Now! e-platforms. Present at the launch was the Principal Secretary of Basic Education, Dr Dira Khama, and representatives from all FutureLife-Now! schools. The launch included a demonstration of how the e-platforms work.
Speaking during the launch on behalf of the schools, Malehlohonolo Mokorosi from Matholeng High School assured everyone that as teachers “we will work on sustainable measures, together with parents, in terms of data and Wi-Fi, beyond FutureLife-Now! support”.
Some of the pilot schools in far-reaching areas did not have any electricity connection and thus the FutureLife-Now! solution to this challenge was to install solar power to provide the needed energy to run laptops, projectors and screens. The principal of Motsekuoa High School, Moqhali Matsela, said, “We are already using the solar panels, at the same time saving extensively on electricity bills.”
Johanna Mokhoro, principal at Semonkong High School expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the equipment and thanked FutureLife-Now! for the assistance, while an educator at Thetsane High School indicated that he is already using the laptop, projector and screen to show education videos when teaching his subjects of Maths and Science.
The platform also provides schools with the opportunity to communicate amongst themselves, share and learn across countries and continents, and benefit from engagement on the new CSTL Pulse, an online education community platform for the SADC region.
“At the end of the day, reaching young people with information even during the COVID-19 pandemic will ensure we still achieve FutureLife-Now! Member State objective one,” says Kuleile, “which emphasises increased access to youth-friendly, HIV, SRHR, and antiretroviral therapy education support and services.”