“I AM so inspired, I feel like I am flying,” declares Makhoase Motsatse. This is after her recent visit to Toronto, Canada, where she was one of 2 000 delegates who attended the International Confederation of Principals World Convention (www.icp2011.ca) which was held from August 15 to 18, 2011.
“There were nine of us from Lesotho, a big delegation compared to some of the other African countries which had one or two,” she explains.
Networking with educators from all over the world was an eye-opener for Motsatse.
“One thing I discovered is that schools in the developed countries face similar problems as ours. That is absenteeism, child neglect and nutrition in schools,” Motsatse says.
Motsatse’s journey in education has been long, winding and bumpy in places, much like the road leading to Rantuba High School in Peka, where she has been principal since 2005.
The crooked and rusted sign signalling the turn off to the school does not do justice to the vibrant school community I found there.
In a country where there are more girls than boys in primary school, Rantuba High School is unique in that it has an enrolment of 77 boys and 66 girls.
“We have no boarding facilities and I am sure this is the greatest need.
Almost all of them, about 90 percent, come from far away,” she says.
Her arrival at Rantuba in 1998 as deputy principal was not well received at all.
As one of her female teachers, Mohoanyane recounted, “When she came here, we never accommodated her. She never had it easy.”
Undeterred Motsatse immediately got to work and one of her first goals was staff development.
She brought her motivational books and left them in the staffroom for teachers to read.
“We laughed and said this one is crazy. We wouldn’t read them,” recalls Mohoanyane.
A couple of years later, Motsatse decided to further her education.
“The Open Learning system had just started and I registered for an Honours Degree in Education which I completed in 2002.”
Later she completed another honours degree in education, this time fulltime at Potchefstroom.
“It wasn’t easy. My second daughter was expecting a baby; the eldest had finished her degree but was unemployed and my husband, who had been working in the mines, was seriously ill.”
After her husband’s funeral in early 2004 she never returned to university to complete the Masters degree she had started.
In her absence there were changes at Rantuba High, which led to her being appointed principal in 2005.
Over time Motsatse convinced four of the teachers to go back to school fulltime to earn their degrees, including Mohoanyane who by now had read some of the motivational books.
“Motsatse told me of the challenges I would face. It was tough for a woman of my age going back to school.
“Some of the students made fun of me but Motsatse had warned me about this. She supported me and I used to borrow books from her,” Mohoanyane explains.
She returned to Rantuba this year after graduating from the National University of Lesotho with a Bachelor’s degree in Education in 2010. According to both teachers, what the school needs is a library.
“English is the main problem and it affects students’ performance in other subjects because they have to study in English.”
Books, old magazines, even newspapers would make a difference, I am told.
Poverty within the community also has an impact on the children.
“Just look at their shoes — looking at them will tell you a story,” Mohoanyane urges.
Some of them come to school without having eaten breakfast.
Fortunately, the school provides lunch which parents take turns to prepare.
Luckily rainwater has been abundant this year and it is collected in green tanks nearby.
The school has had no electricity since the generator broke down a long time ago and Motsatse has been trying to get a repairman to come from nearby Ficksburg without success.
“Some well-wishers have promised to fix it but we need a quotation first,” she says.
Sometime ago Wales Link visited the school and they are planning to install solar panels for them.
“I want to form an association for retired teachers because I think they still have a lot to offer in the teaching of the community,” is one of Motsatse’s many plans. So is writing and motivating others.
Motsatse is a woman on a mission, as Mohoanyane says, “She is someone who doesn’t give up even when there is no support.”