What is needed to change this coun­try?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Mo­siuoa Frantsi

LE­SOTHO is a land­locked coun­try en­tirely sur­rounded by the Re­pub­lic of South Africa and there­fore im­ports most of its re­quire­ments.

The pop­u­la­tion of Le­sotho is cur­rently 1.8 mil­lion with a very high un­em­ploy­ment rate. It is against this eco­nomic back­ground that there is a vi­tal need to trans­form the econ­omy and max­i­mize the un­tapped in­dus­try op­por­tu­ni­ties.

With the dis­cov­ery of di­a­monds and har­ness­ing of its vi­tal wa­ter re­sources, Le­sotho’s econ­omy is on the growth path.

There is there­fore a need for man­power devel­op­ment to lever­age its hu­man cap­i­tal to pro­duce in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices to add value to the econ­omy.

Le­sotho needs a more de­vel­oped econ­omy to com­pete glob­ally. At the mo­ment, the gov­ern­ment is the main em­ployer in the coun­try. There is there­fore a need for the pri­vate sec­tor to play a key role to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment.

Ev­ery year, it is es­ti­mated that 25 000 job seek­ers en­ter the mar­ket which can only gen­er­ate 10 000 jobs a year. The sit­u­a­tion must im­prove to ar­rest the high un­em­ploy­ment rate.

Also, there is heavy re­liance on the South African econ­omy to gen­er­ate net in­come from abroad through Ba­sotho work­ing in South African mines.

The cre­ation of more jobs will re­sult in more in­come be­ing sourced within the coun­try and make Le­sotho less vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ter­nal fac­tors

Ed­u­ca­tion is an im­por­tant key to build­ing hu­man ca­pac­ity for the dy­namic changes ahead be­cause it will em­power young peo­ple with the knowl­edge and skills to take ad­van­tage of new op­por­tu­ni­ties or to start off as new and in­no­va­tive en­trepreneurs.

In this re­gard, higher learn­ing in­sti­tutes should be ready to play this part. As a mat­ter of fact, they should in­tro­duce an en­trepreneur­ship ac­cel­er­a­tion plat­form for Le­sotho as a value-adding strat­egy to de­velop en­trepreneur­ship skills.

These plat­forms should be tai­lor­made to suit the press­ing needs of grad­u­ates to ac­quire the nec­es­sary skills and ex­pe­ri­ence to be­come en­trepreneurs on their own, as well as en­hance their em­ploy­a­bil­ity in the mar­ket­place.

It has come to my re­al­i­sa­tion that one of the ma­jor chal­lenges in the coun­try, that is af­fect­ing chil­dren’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity and progress in find­ing ways of try­ing to solve is­sues as get­ting aid to the right peo­ple at the right time, is the fact that we are not get­ting the or­phan and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren reg­is­tered.

It needs to be im­ple­mented and needs to be done quickly. An es- ti­mated 180,000 chil­dren are or­phans in Le­sotho, out of which 100,000 have been or­phaned by AIDS. They say a por­tion of them are in school, but we want to know what has hap­pened to the rest.

I think it would be of great im­por­tance that all those whom are in­vis­i­ble to be taken to the sur­face and given a chance to join their fel­low youth in school.

As young peo­ple, we feel that we de­serve full ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, pro­tec­tion and health care ser­vices.

We ac­knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts that the gov­ern­ment has taken to ensure that ev­ery child has ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion through the Free Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme; ac­cess to post pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion through the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion’s bur­sary scheme to meet the needs of or­phans and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren who also ben­e­fit from the re­cently in­tro­duced pro­gramme on loan­ing text books to stu­dents.

The gov­ern­ment should now ensure that ed­u­ca­tion be­comes com­pul­sory, that ev­ery child must stay in school es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of chil­dren nowa­days and how easy it is for an or­phan to drop out.

Sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that about 10,087 males and 11,221 fe­male chil­dren have been counted as dis­abled in the 1996 cen­sus data.

The num­ber is prob­a­bly higher now, hence a need for repli­ca­tion of cen­tres that cater for dis­abled peo­ple such as St. An­gel at Ha-abia Maseru, all over the coun­try.

We would like to see al­ready ex­ist­ing schools cater for the dis­abled, such as St. Bernarderd pri­mary and St. Cather­ines High schools.

Most young peo­ple do not have ac­cess to sex­ual health ad­vice, con­doms and other forms of con­tra­cep­tion, or vol­un­tary coun­sel­ing and test­ing.

More of­ten young peo­ple are de­lib­er­ately de­prived of these life sav­ing ser­vices and in­for­ma­tion be­cause adults deny that sex­u­al­ity is a nor­mal and healthy as­pect of grow­ing up.

Re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices are sel­dom geared to­wards the needs of young peo­ple, who there­fore tend to avoid them, putting them­selves and their part­ners at huge risk of HIV in­fec­tion.

I would re­quest that youth friendly ser­vices should in­form young peo­ple about their sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health rights and pro­vide wider ac­cess to vol­un­tary coun­sel­ing and test­ing.

Health ser­vices should be af­ford­able, cater for mi­nor or un­mar­ried youth, of­fer low-cost or free con­doms and pro­vide treat­ment for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

I also would rec­om­mend that health ser­vices must of­fer pri­vacy and should guar­an­tee con­fi­den­tial­ity. More flex­i­ble open­ing hours (to cater for young peo­ple who work and study), would make a dif­fer­ence.

Cost ef­fec­tive and af­ford­able care should be made ac­ces­si­ble to all young peo­ple with HIV/AIDS and HIV re­lated ill­nesses at all lev­els. Good nu­tri­tion habits should con­tinue to be pro­moted, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion on vi­ta­mins and min­er­als by health care givers.

One of the key fac­tors which con­trib­ute to the growth of the coun­try in­cludes the vi­o­lence to­wards chil­dren do­mes­tic work­ers and herd­boys.

To sup­port their selves or their fam­i­lies, some chil­dren have to find jobs or are rented out by their rel­a­tives to other house­holds in or­der to con­trib­ute, mostly as do­mes­tic work­ers or herd boys.

They are of­ten abused in their work en­vi­ron­ments, sex­u­ally and/or phys­i­cally. This is still tak­ing place even though it has been stated that the child has the right to be pro­tected from work that threat­ens his/her health, ed­u­ca­tion or devel­op­ment and the min­i­mum age of em­ploy­ment set by the Gov­ern­ment be­ing 18 years of age.

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