Examinations comprise the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) at the end of primary school; Junior Certificate (JC) examinations, which takes place at the end of lower secondary education; and the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) examinations, which follow upper secondary schooling. The PSLE and JC examinations are organised and managed by the Examination Council of Lesotho (ECOL), which also coordinates other international examinations.
Lesotho’s education system owes much to the work of Christian missionaries both during the colonial period and post-independence. In 1833, French Protestant missionaries founded the first formal primary schools in Lesotho. When Lesotho became a British colony in 1868, the colonial government continued to support missionary education through grants made to both Protestant and Catholic churches.
Christian-based religious organisations continue to play a pivotal role in the education system. While the majority of primary schools are today still owned and run by the Roman Catholic Church, Lesotho Evangelical Church, Anglican Church or the communities themselves, government makes a major contribution to the running of these schools by covering the costs of staff salaries.
Since the introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE), the ratio of pupils per teacher has improved from 48:1 in 2000 to 35:1 in 2008.
Early childhood care and development (ECCD) has long-term implications in preparing children for school. The Lesotho Pre-School and Day Care Association (LPDCA), which was formed in 1979, acted as the first umbrella body for all early childhood matters. Government recognition came in 1985 with the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Unit in the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) to coordinate all ECCD activities, increase access to ECCD services and create policy to guide and standardise provision of such services across Lesotho.
Presently, government support entails covering some of the costs of early childhood development centres, particularly feeding of children in the mountain areas; providing structures, staffing, guidelines and standards to ensure that an effective nationwide ECCD programme is in place; developing and providing inclusive learning and teaching materials and equipment for promoting a home-based approach; ensuring integration of children with special educational needs in ECCD programmes. An ECCD teacher training programme was introduced at the Lesotho College of Education in 2007.
The MoET’s home-based approach to ECCD seeks to empower parents with parenting, care-giving and teaching skills at minimal cost. The home-based approach should also help in addressing the problems of orphaned and vulnerable children who are not able to afford enrolment fees in ECCD centres.
Present initiatives include the introduction of a pre-primary class in government primary schools nationwide. These reception classes, which enrol children between the ages of five and six, are meant to prepare children for primary school, thereby helping to improve the standard of education. Other objectives comprise increasing the ECCD recurrent budget allocation and expanding the school feeding programme into ECCD centres and home-bases.
While there is currently no formalised national system for monitoring children’s development or school readiness, the ECCD programme is guided by the national ECCD curriculum, which requires teachers to produce individual reports on children’s development in the areas of cognitive, social, physical, moral and emotional development, as well as their health and nutritional status.
The introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) in Lesotho in 2000 saw a sharp increase of 75 percent in enrolment that year. According to the Minister of Education and Training, the net enrolment ratio in primary schools has increased from 60.2 percent in 1999 to 80.9 percent in 2009. With the first batch of FPE students to graduate in 2012, the challenge will be to absorb these students into the 13 institutions of higher learning in the country.
Traditionally, more girls than boys have attended school, as young boys in rural areas were often involved in cattle herding for their families. However, this has changed during the last decade, and there are presently slightly more boys than girls enrolled in primary school. The FPE programme absorbs the cost of textbooks as well as providing free food, which has made schooling more accessible to vulnerable children and orphans.
The average pass rate since 2000 in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is 83 percent, ranging between 87 percent (2004) and 75 percent (2002), according to the 2010 Statistical Yearbook compiled by Lesotho’s Bureau of Statistics.
The number of teachers has increased rapidly in Lesotho’s primary schools – from 8 225 in 1999 to 11 285 in 2008, with distance education programmes introduced to train unqualified teachers in remote locations. As of 2010, the MoET was working with the World Bank to find ways of creating incentives for teachers, especially those working in the rural areas.
Now that all children have access to primary education, it is hoped that the enactment of a new law on compulsory primary education will see even higher enrolment figures. Community campaigns continue to be conducted to encourage the uptake of FPE – these campaigns are considered extremely important in encouraging parents to recognise that education is a fundamental right for children. Grant provision is to be intensified for needy schools and bursaries provided to needy children.
Support from the World Food Program (WFP) sees the provision of two free meals per day (morning porridge and lunch) to 66 000 pupils in 400 primary schools located in remote and economically-disadvantaged highland and mountainous regions. School meals provide a powerful incentive for parents to keep their children in class while giving children the energy they need to concentrate on their lessons
Repetition and attrition
Although primary school completion rates have shown significant improvement since the implementation of FPE, from 60 percent in 2000 to 73 percent in 2008 (World Development Indicators database), the education sector continues to deal with the challenges of repetition and attrition. In this regard, teaching and learning conditions are being improved, beginning with the identification of schools with the lowest retention rates. School inspections are being intensified in districts to ensure that inspectors conduct supervision more regularly and provide support to teachers and school management.
Primary school facilities
The expansion in pupil numbers since the introduction of FPE in 2000 has necessitated the building of new classrooms and schools. With assistance from Lesotho’s development partners, government has built new primary schools and more classrooms in areas that previously had no access to education. Benefits have included the decongesting of previously crowded schools and considerable shortening of travelling distances for young learners. As of March 2010, Lesotho had over 1 500 primary schools compared to 1 283 in 2000 – the year free primary education began.
Between 1994 and 2008, the number of children enrolled in secondary education and the number of teachers both increased at about 60 percent, with the pupil-teacher ratio thus remaining stable at 24 students per teacher.
As the beneficiaries of free primary education transition into the secondary level, additional resources need to be channelled into accommodating these pupils as well as improving the curriculum to meet contemporary requirements. This includes sufficient teachers as well as adequate infrastructural facilities, with plans to build three new secondary schools each year from 2007/08 to 2015/16. The 2010/11 budget therefore proposed an allocation of M72 million for support to secondary education.
According to the MoET, secondary school enrolment has increased substantially since 1994, from a total enrolment of 61 615 to enrolment of 98 580 in 2008. The number of teachers has grown by a similar rate over this period, from 2 597 to 4 102. Nevertheless, the cost of education and competing priorities, such as the need for farm labour, have made school enrolment prohibitive for many Basotho, especially at secondary level.
More girls than boys are attending secondary school where, unlike primary schools, the gap has been fairly constant over the last ten years, with the share of girls varying between 55 and 60 percent and that of boys between 40 and 45 percent. The ratio of boys decreased slightly from 2006 to 2008.
Since 2002, the pass rate for Junior Certificate (JC) examinations has varied between 58 and 67 percent, while the pass rate for Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC) has been gradually improving, from 44 percent in 2002 to 51 percent in 2006.
While education is free for all children at primary level, government only sponsors secondary education for orphans with no surviving parent, as well as some vulnerable children. The MoET is liaising with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning about the possibility of increasing such sponsorships to accommodate larger numbers of needy children.
During 2010, the government of Japan handed over seven secondary schools, which it had funded at a cost of M61 million. These schools include Masowe High School in Maseru, Lioli in Berea, ‘Masenate in Leribe, Likileng in Botha-Bothe, Matholeng in Mafeteng, Moorosi in Quthing and Mokhotlong. However, the challenge remains to build more secondary schools as there are only around 300 compared with over 1 500 primary schools.
The Lesotho College of Education (LCE) is Lesotho’s sole provider of basic, pre-service teacher education to the diploma level, intended for teaching in primary schools and for teaching in the first three years of secondary schools. It also provides in-service, part-time distance teacher education to enable unqualified primary school teachers to become qualified to the diploma level.
In addition to these central tasks, the college participates, as needs and opportunities arise, in the research, consultancy and evaluation work relevant to the educational system, in the formulation of educational policy, and in the provision of short training courses for teachers. It is increasingly providing consultancy services to the education system as may be commissioned from time to time. The college receives considerable guidance and assistance from the National University of Lesotho (NUL), with which it maintains a close relationship, while also developing necessary and relevant links with other institutions of higher learning in the region and internationally.
LCE was originally established in 1975 as the National Teacher Training College (NTTC), replacing three denominational teachers’ colleges owned by the Roman Catholic Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church and the Anglican Church of Lesotho. The NTTC was made a department of the MoET and the churches were given representation on its board of governors and in the teaching staff of the college. The college opened its doors with 78 students under the guidance of 12 local lecturers and five UNESCO advisers.
With the support of the Lesotho government, programmes leading to certificates were provided until the mid 1990s. The college developed both pre-service and in-service programmes for primary school teaching and a pre-service programme for the secondary level. By 1990 the academic staff were organised in three divisions: the Primary, Secondary and In-Service divisions. In the period between 1994 and 2002 the certificate programmes were gradually replaced by diploma programmes of a similar duration.
On 31 July 2002 the college was granted autonomy and renamed the Lesotho College of Education (LCE). Since then, it has had the authority to determine its own programmes and strategic plan, and to allocate its own resources internally. The college continues to operate as a public institution, financed by a subvention from the Lesotho government.
Shortly after the granting of autonomy, the pre-service academic staff of the college were reorganised into three faculties with three departments each. In the interests of more efficient deployment, the new departments contain staff from both the former pre-service divisions (Primary and Secondary). The In-Service Division developed into the Distance Teacher Education Programme, whose academic staff continues to operate, for most purposes, as a separate unit. The LCE has since 2002 increased enrolment in the Diploma in Education (Primary) Programme (DTEP) from about 500 to 2 054.
In June 2006 the college opened a satellite campus at Thaba-Tseka. Operations at the campus began with 127 students enrolled in the Diploma in Education (Secondary) and seven lecturers, among other staff. Some of these students are specialising in the languages (Sesotho and English) while others are specialising in the sciences (biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics). In 2007 the number of students increased by 54 when the Diploma in Education (Primary) Programme was also offered.
The LCE is also expanding and improving its pre-service diploma programmes, which have been revised to make the second year entirely school-based, with the one-year internship having begun in 2008. An in-service Certificate in Early Childhood Education (CECE) Programme has also been established. The Advanced Diploma in Special Education (ADSE) trains teachers to teach learners with special educational needs.
In Lesotho, formal education is complemented by Non-Formal Education (NFE) programmes, which cater for the poorest sectors of society, such as school dropouts and adults who missed out on earlier chances of acquiring education. This comprises some 30 percent of the population in the mountainous rural areas, and about 13 percent in Maseru alone.
Current initiatives to strengthen this subsector include the finalisation of the Non-Formal Education policy; developing a comprehensive NFE training curriculum covering various issues such as agriculture, community development, entrepreneurship, environment and health; where necessary, providing teaching facilities and recruiting additional teachers; developing courses to provide the out-of-school population with functional skills that focus on alternative learning opportunities, basic English and a variety of practical skills.
The main providers of non-formal education are NGOs, the community, private individuals and some church organisations. The MoET also offers non-formal education through the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) and the Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS) in the National University of Lesotho.
The LDTC was established in 1974 and offers basic education courses as well as post primary courses through the Basic Education Unit and Continuing Education Unit. The centre’s focal aim is to provide education for the underprivileged, comprising correspondence courses to private candidates studying for JC and COSC, learning materials on practical topics for rural Basotho, and opportunities for out of school youth and adults to develop functional literacy and numeracy skills.
The Special Education Unit of the MoET was founded in 1987 and became operational in 1991. Its primary objective is to cater for students with disabilities and special education needs and to provide for the integration of such students into the regular school system.
Besides advocacy and supporting policy implementation, the Special Education Unit also engages in teacher training, monitoring progress of students with special education needs, sensitising the public as to the educational needs of students with disabilities, and collaboration with NGOs on disability issues.
HIGHER LEVEL EDUCATION
The principal concerns of the higher education subsector are to increase access to higher education on an equitable basis, improve the relevance of higher education to make it more responsive to the demands of the labour market, and enhance efficiency in institutions of higher learning.
As students perform better in their school leaving exams, Lesotho’s institutes of higher learning are receiving ever more applications for admission. Improving access to higher level education is thus one of Lesotho’s most pressing needs, with the latest UNESCO figures indicating that gross enrolment for tertiary institutions is just 4 percent. Presently, many students are forced to study in neighbouring countries, often in South Africa, due to the lack of classrooms and lecturers in their home country.
At the same time, government’s scholarship programme in support of tertiary education is becoming increasingly unsustainable, with costs having grown alarmingly over the past few years. The budget proposal of M469.6 million to finance scholarships in 2010/11 represented an increase of about M87.8 million (23 percent) over the previous year. While government is committed to providing support in priority areas for which there are skills shortages, new strategies will need to be adopted to ensure sustainability of the programme, with a thorough review of the situation to be undertaken. Past initiatives have included enhancing the recovery of student loans as well as negotiating low-fee access to selected South African universities.
Another challenge facing Lesotho in terms of skills development is that it does not yet adequately meet the demands of the labour market. In this regard, the tertiary education curriculum is being revised to provide greater emphasis on science and technology and to impart skills and competencies that are employment-related. Improvements to courses offered at the National University of Lesotho are being explored in consultation with the National Manpower Development Council, the private sector, NGOs and government stakeholders.
In addition to the National University of Lesotho (NUL), other tertiary institutions comprise Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT); the Lesotho College of Education (LCE), which is an autonomous teacher training institution; the Institute for Distance and Continuing Studies, which is affiliated to NUL; the National Health Training College (NHTC) and the hospital-linked colleges of nursing; Lesotho Agricultural College (LAC) and the Lerotholi Polytechnic (LP). Distance education is also provided through a number of institutions in South Africa.
The Higher Education Act of 2004 provides the legal framework for the regulation of higher education in the country. The act makes provision for the establishment, governance and funding of a Council for Higher Education (CHE).
TECHNICAL & VOCATIONAL TRAINING
Matching skills to the requirements of the job market is vital for enhancing employment levels as well as improving Lesotho’s global competitiveness. Current challenges lie in making vocational education and training in Lesotho more demand driven and flexible, with reform needed in governance and financing as well as in restructuring and improving the curricula and qualifications systems to meet the needs of industry. Furthermore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on preparing individuals for self employment and the informal sector.
A National Qualifications Framework (NQF) has been proposed in order to link education and training to qualifications and provide employers with a means of identifying recognised and accepted qualifications. Furthermore, the NQF would allow TVET providers to structure certification in Lesotho on a competency-based and modularised system.
The Technical and Vocational Training Act of 1984 governs skills development programmes in Lesotho. The Department of Technical and Vocational Training (TVD) of the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) was established in 1987 to serve as the directorate of the Technical and Vocational Training Advisory Board and the nerve-centre of the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system.
The TVD is an umbrella regulatory body tasked with improving the quality of delivery systems and mechanisms through curriculum development; inspection and assessment; accreditation of programmes and institutions; administration of trade tests to determine workers’ skills proficiency levels; support in terms of provision of workshops and equipment, training of staff at TVET institutions and schools; and continual assessment of skills needs. The overall objectives of the department are to:
School of Engineering and Technology (SET)
A total of 21 full and part-time programmes are offered at Lerotholi, leading to both certificates and diplomas. These include diploma programmes in computer systems, electrical and electronic, civil, construction and mechanical engineering; architectural and building technology; and office administration, marketing and business management. Lerotholi Polytechnic aims to be the University of Technology by 2015, with a reputation for excellence in science, technology and entrepreneurial programmes.
The library at Lerotholi Polytechnic provides a variety of services to 1 900 students, 200 lecturers, and staff and researchers from around the country. Starting with just 4 000 titles and three staff members in 1997, the library currently houses a collection of 14 000 titles and is run by ten qualified members of staff. Its collection is mainly focused on engineering and related technologies, English, maths, information and communication technology, art and design, and other support materials.
In October 2010 the governments of Ireland and Cyprus signed a partnership agreement to improve facilities at the polytechnic’s School of Engineering and Technology that will result in an additional 600 students enrolling in science and engineering courses. The agreement will see Irish Aid manage funding of €440 000, which is being provided by Cyprus.
Thaba-Tseka Technical Institute provides training courses, business advice and technical services to the mountain communities. Trade courses last two to three years and computer training programmes are also available.
Lerotholi Polytechnic and Thaba-Tseka Technical Institute are each recognised as ‘programmes’ in the MoET’s recurrent budget. The other six TVET institutions are church-owned and receive budgetary support only for teacher salaries. A growing number of private providers exist in the field of technical and vocational training. Informal training in the form of traditional unrecognised apprenticeship also exists.
Pre-vocational education and skills training is undertaken in community-based skills training centres for early school leavers with a PSLE Certificate, retrenched mineworkers and other disadvantaged groups. It involves short courses designed to meet the specific needs of the community and the individuals in a particular location.
The National University of Lesotho (NUL) was first established in 1945 with the founding of the Pius XII University College at Roma by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Southern Africa. In 1964, Pius XII University College was replaced by the independent, non-denominational University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. A further change of name came after independence in 1966 to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS). The establishment of the National University of Lesotho on the Lesotho (Roma) campus took place in October 1975.
The present-day NUL occupies the same site, grounds and buildings as its predecessors, as well as additional ones – centres of the university’s Institute of Extra Mural Studies situated throughout the country – totalling 100 hectares of land. NUL has over 10 000 students in its seven faculties, comprising those of Agriculture, Education, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, Science and Technology, and Social Science, as well as institutes of South African Studies, Extra-Mural Studies and Education. The university libraries consist of the Thomas Mofolo Library (TML), which is the main library at Roma campus, and branch libraries on other campuses.
Research and consulting is undertaken at the university’s Institute of Education (IE), largely driven by emerging societal issues such as HIV and AIDS, lifelong learning and the need to make education child-friendly and responsive to the country’s needs. Using the Open Distance Learning approach, the Institute of Extra Mural Studies (IEMS) is able to offer learning opportunities to disparate groups in the country.
The Bureau of Projects, Training and Consultancy (NUL-CONSULS) was established in 1991 in response to the need to translate theory into practice by engaging academic staff in applied research, advisory and training services. A joint venture between South Africa and Lesotho has seen the development of research utilising tissue culture to produce high yielding and disease-free potato seed tubers. In addition to building capacity in science and technology, the project has enabled the provision of improved seeds and plantlets to farming communities.
Situated in Moshoeshoe Road, Maseru Central, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) opened its doors in September 2008 to over 1 000 students, whose numbers had risen to 3 600 by 2010. Lesotho’s second university, Limkokwing was established at the request of Lesotho’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Pakalitha Mosisili, who invited the university to become a strategic partner in building Lesotho’s human capital and assisting in the social and economic transformation of the country.
With the focus on invention, innovation and creative thinking, Limkokwing offers a hi-tech learning environment, where students have access to the latest in digital technology. Part of an information and communications technology (ICT) global classroom, students at Limkokwing are able to access virtual learning resources across the university’s other campuses which span the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia. LUCT has a collegial network of over 170 universities in 130 countries, including Lesotho and Botswana.
The university offers diplomas and degrees in disciplines such as Media Studies, Business Information Technology, Tourism Management, Graphic Design and e-Commerce. Producing graduates who are skilled in new media and digital technology will assist Lesotho in its efforts to build industry and compete successfully in the global arena, thus achieving the goals of Vision 2020 and raising the country’s international competitiveness.