11 March 2022 was a busy day for Lesotho in general and for Semonkong High School in particular. Known as Moshoeshoe’s Day, it is an annual celebration in remembrance of the founder of the Basotho nation, the late King Moshoeshoe I, who died on the 11 March, 1870. A public holiday in Lesotho, this day is often celebrated by schools through sports activities such as athletics and soccer.
These festivities were interrupted by COVID-19, and did not take place during 2020 or 2021. However, this year, FutureLife-Now! project youth facilitator, Thabiso Samuel Sello, together with the school’s sports and cultural committees, made the decision to celebrate this year’s event. The day’s programme included many traditional dances and songs such as Ndlamo, Mokhibo, Selialia, Motebuko, Liphotha, and other cultural activities – all part of the Sesotho Arts and Culture curriculum.
It was an eye-catching event that started with a fun walk from the school to the small town of Semonkong. Students and teachers marched proudly in their African traditional attire while ululating residents from the nearby villages provided encouragement.
The in-country FutureLife-Now! Team comprising in-country coordinator, Liengoane Kotele, and health co-ordinator, Puleng Nthinya, supported the event and organised a service day in collaboration with the two nearby health facilities, St Leonard and Semonkong. The facilities provided information on SRHR and HIV services to the youth. “I would call this a day of edutainment,” said Kotele, “because we were educating and at the same time entertaining learners and the community at large.”
As many as 100 learners came forward to test for HIV. This initiative is in line with the FutureLife-Now! focus area on HIV prevention to ensure young people access HIV testing. “We are delighted that the event contributed towards achieving our FutureLife-Now! programme outcomes by increasing knowledge – including the importance of testing and ART adherence – amongst learners,” said health coordinator Nthinya. Learners who requested contraceptives were referred to appropriate health facilities.
The Ministry of Police and Safety, through the Semonkong police station’s Child and Gender Protection Unit, provided information about protection services that are available to youth.
Sister Mokhoro, principal at Semonkong High School, said, “Although this was a youth-tailored activity, the school is delighted that parents, the school board, teachers, the local chief, and the counsellor were able to take time to attend the event and that they showed leadership by accessing HIV self-testing services.”
Makhojane Mahlakeng, who is a civic education and peer educator at the partner, Development for Peace Education Organisation, said, “I feel honoured and delighted to have attended such an activity supported by FutureLife-Now!. I am happy to see that we are working towards a common goal: youth agency.”
The day was a success for all, especially the youth of the area. Said Tumelo Semetse, a Grade 9 learner, “I will now pass Arts and Culture since I have seen all what is in the books in real life.”