Sen­te­bale changes fo­cus on herd boys

Lesotho Times - - News - Mo­halenyane Phakela

MOKHOT­LONG — Char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion, Sen­te­bale, has re­fo­cused its ed­u­ca­tion strat­egy for herd boys to pri­ori­tise their ac­cess to health ser­vices start­ing in Mokhot­long and even­tu­ally across the coun­try.

Sen­te­bale was founded in 2006 by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso from the Bri­tish and Le­sotho royal fam­i­lies re­spec­tively. The char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion was formed in re­sponse to the plight of Le­sotho’s or­phans and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren.

This was af­ter Prince Harry came to Le­sotho in 2004 as Prince Seeiso’s guest to spend part of his gap year work­ing as a vol­un­teer on a num­ber of lo­cal wel­fare projects.

Sen­te­bale, which trans­lates in English to ‘for­get me not’, was born out of that ex­pe­ri­ence and Prince Harry’s de­sire to con­tinue his late mother Princess Diana’s work with dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren.

The char­ity helps vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in Le­sotho and Botswana get the sup­port they need to lead healthy and pro­duc­tive lives. Sen­te­bale works with lo­cal grass­roots or­gan­i­sa­tions to help the vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, some of whom are vic­tims of ex­treme poverty and the HIV/AIDS epi­demic.

Sen­te­bale’s pi­lot project in 2006 was to teach herd boys in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try how to read and write through a night school. The ini­tia­tive started in Mat­soaing, East of Mokhot­long town to­wards Sani Pass where the char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion has built class­rooms for the herd boys pow­ered by so­lar pan­els.

Over the years, the out­reach pro­gram spread through­out Mokhot­long dis­trict and other parts of the coun­try which in­clude Marak­abei, Se­monkong and Quthing.

The ini­tia­tive was mo­ti­vated by the fact that herd boys are among the most vul­ner­a­ble groups in Le­sotho. Boys from as young as eight years old are sent to the re­mote high­lands to care for live­stock as a way of earn­ing an in­come for their fam­i­lies. Con­se­quently, they miss out on the op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive a for­mal ed­u­ca­tion and ac­cess to pub­lic health ser­vices.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Sen­te­bale’s Head of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, Sech­aba Mokhameleli, they de­cided to shift from pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices to health ser­vices for the herd boys.

Mr Mokhameleli said this on Tues­day dur­ing the launch of Sen­te­bale’s Com­pre­hen­sive Health Pack­age at the herd boys’ school in Mat­soaing.

Un­der the Com­pre­hen­sive Health Pack­age, herd boys from the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages of Maphola­neng, Poopa, Mateanong and Thaba Limpe will also be able to ac­cess free med­i­cal ser­vices.

The pro­gramme man­dates the Mokhot­long health depart­ment to col­lab­o­rate with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Jh­piego in pro­vid­ing male cir­cum­ci­sion ser­vices and the Starkey Hear­ing Foun­da­tion which as­sists peo­ple in need to re­ceive hear­ing as­sis­tance.

The Com­pre­hen­sive Health Pack­age launch cer­e­mony was at­tended by a large num­ber of herd boys who re­ceived var­i­ous med­i­cal ser­vices. Among the ser­vices they re­ceived were checks of blood sugar lev­els, hear­ing and also be­ing taught on the use of con­doms.

Also in at­ten­dance dur­ing the cer­e­mony was Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, Mokhot­long Prin­ci­pal Chief Mathealira Seeiso as well as var­i­ous ed­u­ca­tion and health of­fi­cials.

Mr Mokhameleli said the de­ci­sion to pri­ori­tise pro­vid­ing health ser­vices was made fol­low­ing the re­al­i­sa­tion that herd boys did not get the chance to visit health cen­tres due to their busy sched­ules.

“Sen­te­bale was formed about 10 years ago af­ter its founders re­alised that the herd boys had no ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion,” he said.

“Over the years, we have been as­sist­ing them in var­i­ous ways that in­clude teach­ing them how to read and write.

“We set five-year terms for our pro­grammes, af­ter which we eval­u­ate the im­pact our out­reach has made. So, this time around, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion ad­vised us to change our strat­egy since there are ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties such as LANFE (Le­sotho As­so­ci­a­tion of Non-for­mal Ed­u­ca­tion) which can take over as they al­ready of­fer such ser­vices.”

Mr Mokhameleli added: “We then de­cided to shift to the health sec­tor since we re­alised that the herd boys don’t have time to go to hos­pi­tals or clin­ics as they spent most of their time herd­ing live­stock and then at school in the evening.”

Sen­te­bale’s goal, he said, was to pro­vide the Com­pre­hen­sive Health Pack­age to the rest of

the Mokhot­long dis­trict by the end of 2017.

“The next stop is Butha-buthe and Leribe. We are aim­ing to go coun­try­wide by 2020,” said Mr Mokhameleli.

How­ever, Mokhot­long dis­trict Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion Lil­lian Malefe, pleaded with Sen­te­bale to con­tinue with its ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme.

“In Se­sotho, there is no thing such as a di­vorce. So we are hop­ing that this is not the end of our com­mu­nion with Sen­te­bale,” she said.

“It is through Sen­te­bale that we man­aged to come this far. So, we still need your as­sis­tance and hope you will be around when we need help.”

Ms Malefe added: “Ev­ery child has the right to ed­u­ca­tion and it does not sit well with us that th­ese kids start herd­ing live­stock at a

very ten­der age.

“Some re­sort to herd­ing at a young age be­cause they will have noth­ing to eat. We plan to sit down with the So­cial Wel­fare min­istry and work out how they can help th­ese chil­dren so they can go to school.”

For her part, Mokhot­long’s dis­trict Health Man­age­ment Team head, Alina Se­fou Makoa, said they would pro­vide the health ser­vices on a monthly ba­sis.

“Some­times th­ese kids take a very long time be­fore vis­it­ing health cen­tres even when they are sick.

“Of­ten­times, they seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion when it may be too late,” she said.

“This may not be be­cause of ig­no­rance, but due to their busy sched­ules of herd­ing all day. Some of them live in the Mete­bong an­i­mal posts which are very far from the res­i­den­tial

ar­eas.”

Ms Makoa said the herd boys’ health was also im­por­tant for the dis­trict’s econ­omy.

“They are vul­ner­a­ble to dif­fer­ent ill­nesses, yet they are the back­bone of Mokhot­long’s econ­omy since they take care of the live­stock which has made our dis­trict the top pro­ducer of mo­hair,” she said.

“We be­lieve bring­ing th­ese health fa­cil­i­ties be­fore them will be of great help in fos­ter­ing healthy life­styles. We will mostly be fo­cused on test­ing and treat­ing HIV, TB and STIS as they are deadly if not treated at an early stage.”

On be­half of the Min­istry of Health, Dr Ka­belo Mat­jeane said they would fully sup­port the ini­tia­tive, urg­ing the herd boys to open up to health care providers to get the ap­pro­pri­ate as­sis­tance.

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