MOKHOTLONG – For most people, the ability to read and write is something to take for granted in light of the proliferation of schools in Lesotho.
However, for many herd boys in Mokhotlong district reading and writing are not skills they attained in a conventional school but through an education initiative by charity organisation Sentebale.
Sentebale is a charity founded by Prince Harry of Britain and Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso in 2006 following Prince Harry’s gap year to Lesotho in 2004.
Over the years, Sentebale opened night schools for herd boys in the mountainous and remote district of Mokhotlong from which they were equipped with basic reading and writing skills.
During Tuesday’s launch of Sentebale’s Comprehensive Health Package at Matsoaing Herd-boys School in Mokhotlong, some of the herd boys expressed their appreciation to the charity organisation.
The herd boys, who were from the Mokhotlong villages of Matsoaing, Ha Matsoejane, Ha Poopa, Mapholaneng, Mateanong and Thaba Limpe, sang the praises of Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso who was in attendance during the event.
Some of the herd boys paid tribute in the form of Lithoko – a traditional form of poetry – while others sang Mokorotlo songs praising Sentebale and its founders.
For his part, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso wore a traditional blanket similar to those worn by herd boys. The blanket was inscribed with messages from herd boys thanking him for teaching them how to read and write.
On behalf of the herd boys, 23-year-old Boikano Habasisi said Sentebale had given them hope for the future through education.
“Some of us are in this situation of being herd boys because that is the only way we can survive. We cannot go to school like any other young people,” he said.
“We never thought there would come a time when we could read and write. But with the help we are getting from Sentebale, we learned that we can still have a bright future.
“I have been a student here for four years and I can now read and write Sesotho very well. I also learned about etiquette and following instructions.”
Mr Habasisi also indicated that their other challenge was the hazardous conditions they encountered during winter.
“We spent most of the time at the Metebong animal posts which are very far from the residential areas and in the mountains,” he said.
“So, whenever there are heavy snowfalls, we get stuck in the mountains and are left stranded since we are often situated in places that are far apart.”
The helicopters that patrol the area, Mr Habasisi said, could not locate the herd boys due to the snow during winter.
“It would be a great if we could be helped with cell phones so that we can make calls when in distress,” he added.
For his part, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso urged the Lesotho Defence Force, which rescues people during heavy snow periods, to teach the herd boys survival tactics.
“The cattle posts are a huge distance from each other, so when they are covered in snow it is difficult to locate them,” he said.
“As a result, the herd boys cannot get help when they need it. So I urge the soldiers to train these kids in emergency survival tactics and ways to make distress signals when in danger.”