01 / 1999
On the dusty road, the car overtook five horsemen whose horses set off at a gallop in a cloud of shining dust. At the foothills of the Maluti mountains, St. Barnabas High School dominated the surroudings. No trees. Just rocks, an exhausted land and an incredibly bright luminosity. As if we were closer to the sun.
We followed the principal of the school who had received a short notice about our visit. Here is the pig project, here is the dairy cows project, here the vegetable project and here the walnut project.
Are the 365 students present in the school just here to run projects? Of coure not, but he thought we were just interested in projects. After all, were we visiting him on behalf of donors?
2. The Challenge
The principal arrived in the school more than 15 years ago. He wanted his school to become dynamic and to provide students a training that would allow them either to join vocational and technical schools or to embark into income generating activities in the difficult context of rural Lesotho. Too many students just spent years in High School as a useless period of their life while their parents had put big hopes and amounts of money in their education.
3. The actors
The high school is staffed with 18 trainers amongst who 16 are contracted by the Ministry of Education. The school is private since it is owned by the local anglican church. Up to now, the principal has been left very much independant - he even suppressed religious lessons due to lack of proper teachers and a high rate of failure at the national exams. The shool has a capacity to train 360 students among whom 60% are female. It is supervised by a School Committee that comprises of two representatives of the parents, two representatives of the school owner (in that case the local church)a representative of the staff, the local chief and the principal. This committee meets regularly every 3 months or more often if needed to foresee the development of the school activities and the policies affecting the school.
4. The methods used to face the challenge
Thanks to dynamic information campaigns by the principal of the school, the school benefitted of several aids from foreign donors that allowed it to launch practical activities that became the originality of the school. Curricula have been modified accordingly and every students has the duty and the opportunity to be practically exposed to agricultural, building, welding, or even typing and computer using experiences. The principal, on behalf and with the agreement of the school committee presented specific projects to donors. Agreements were signed and the school was receiving the budget through successive instalments once work was executed.
All the money was managed by the principal and this allowed original arrangements. In 1994, a summer camp was organised for the students to dig a canal from a reservoir built on the mountain above the school. This created a very conductive atmosphere between teachers and students that still remains.
From small projects in the beginning, the school is now able to manage bigger investments such as the construction of dormitories on its own funds (parents contributions).
5. The outputs
The rate of students admitted in technical training keeps growing. Last year, two former students graduated and came back as teachers in the school. This impressed the students and reinforced the meaning they gave to their training.
6. The future
Since the school depends on a generator and solar panels to get its electrical power, the school committee is now lobbying the local authorities to draw an electric line to reach the school. Though it is costly, this will allow students who all will be residents in the school, from next academic year on, to use their evenings in a better way.
The first impression we got rapidly faded out. This high school and its principal genuinely have a vision. Projects are seen as ways to improve the education given in the school. The way these projects have been implemented built a strong capacity in the school which is now able to invest and handle new investment project without external assistance.
Some of the projects were funded by the micro-project management unit of the European Development Fund.
ST. Barnabas High School - P.O. Box 14- ROTHE 195 - LESOTHO.
[[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]
Interview with WESI LEBUSO, C.