While slowly navigating some of the treacherous steep dirt roads it became abundantly clear to me that Lesotho truly cares about educating its children. The poverty of Lesotho is impossible to miss and most people, especially in the countryside, live very basic with little to no money at hand. However as you see the proud smiling children in their well cared for school uniforms heading for school it’s easy to forget this fact. It’s a funny thing, street signs when you leave the capital are mostly absent, and the only signs you see again and again are signs for the schools you pass on the way. Most of these schools are often brand new and are always very well maintained. The government puts a lot of funding into the school system and there has been a great deal of international help as well.
85% of the population over the age of 14 are literate and unlike most countries in the world the literacy rate among women is higher than men’s at a staggering 94.5%. These numbers are really incredible and definitely prove that the education efforts are panning out. The people of Lesotho certainly have other major problems to deal with as well, the main issue being Aids with 23.6% of the population being infected. More than 50% of urban women under 40 have HIV. The government is aggressively combating this terrible situation through education.
Having travelled for the majority of my adult life I felt a strong urge to give something back, no matter how small, when I can. A few months prior to departure I setup a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for school supplies that I would bring with me to Lesotho. I had overwhelming positive response from my fantastic friends and family and put together over 100 sets of pencil cases packed with goodies. I quickly set my eye on a few different schools but later decided to be a little pickier with my decision of where to hand them out. The obvious choices close to tourist heavy areas (although “tourist heavy” doesn’t really apply around here) will often receive the most help. So I decided to head deep into the mountains and find a school that would need the support the most. Now finding a small school in a country like Lesotho is harder than you might think. You
wouldn’t believe how many kids can be crammed into on tiny building and ideally I would like not to break any hearts at the end of the line. I finally found a great school of the right size in the heart of southern Lesotho. As soon as I slowed my vehicle I was greeted with warm and curious smiling faces. The teacher ensured me that “just” 112 kids attended the school, a perfect amount! I was somewhat surprised how orderly this ordeal came along. Within 5 minutes, with the help of a patient teacher, I had a perfect line of excited kiddos queuing up for their present. With squeals and shy “thank you’s” everybody was smiling that day. The teacher took full advantage of the situation and explained to her students “See this is why you should always come to school”.
This day was a truly emotional experience and something I will cherish forever. The memories of the beaming smiles of Lesotho are there to stay. Often I think the general media puts a very negative spin on world events but I am extremely inspired by people contributing in even the smallest ways. It may be a drop in the ocean, but it’s a nice drop that the children will certainly remember.