M168 million boost for education, energy

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MASERU — Lesotho and Japan have signed a M168 million grant to boost the local education and energy sectors.

About M149 million will be used to construct new secondary schools as well as upgrade existing ones.

The remaining funds will finance the Ministry of Natural Resources’ solar electricity project at Moshoeshoe I International Airport, about 32 kilometres south of Maseru.

In a bid to accommodate the increasing number of pupils leaving primary school, the government will construct six secondary schools while another six will undergo major facelift.

The project will target the districts of Maseru, Berea, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Thaba-Tseka, Quthing, Leribe and Butha-Buthe.

The chief representative for the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Toshiyuki Nakamura, said more secondary schools were necessary because a free primary education programme introduced in 2000 had
resulted in more pupils seeking secondary school places.

JICA is Japan’s official overseas development agency.

“Eight secondary schools were constructed in the last three years to absorb the elevated admission needs of graduates as a result of free primary education for all,” he said at a signing ceremony attended by finance minister Timothy Thahane on Monday.

“As we desire to achieve this goal, we are pleased to note not only the need
for absorbing graduates from nearby schools, but we are also concluding agreement to address disparity in rural areas where there are needs for secondary schools or additional classrooms,” he said.

The solar project, Nakamura said, was meant to ensure the availability of environment friendly alternative energy.

“The project of introducing clean energy via solar electricity at the Moshoeshoe I Airport reflects the growing need for more inventive minds from our present and future generations.

“We are joining global efforts towards producing environmentally friendly and cost-effective energy sources, and it is our hope that the project at the Moshoeshoe I Airport will vividly inspire users of the airport who are corporates and individuals, to engage in the use of greener energy sources in their daily lives,” Nakamura said.

Thahane said the agreement indicated Japan’s commitment to Lesotho, even at a time when that country was in the midst of a devastating disaster.

“We are aware of the problems that the government of Japan and its people are encountering. Despite those problems the government of Japan is still continuing with the agreement,” Thahane said, noting that there were no conditions to repay the money.

An earthquake and a tsunami which flattened Japan’s north-east coast have left up to 12 000 people dead.

A further 15 000 people are reported mising, while the number of refugees has topped 160 000.

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