A Tale of Two Schools

A Tale of Two Schools

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…” (Revelation 2:2)

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…” (Revelation 2:2)

Providing education has been an important part of missionary efforts all around the world.  The French Protestants who came to Lesotho 179 years ago, and started what is now the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC), also engaged in this work and today the LEC has 560 primary, secondary/high and vocational schools.  All but about 80 are primary schools.  The abundance of such schools, both government and church-related, has helped Lesotho have one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.

Just under twenty years ago, Mrs. Mary Letsie took it upon herself to start a new school at the village of Ha Ramohapi.  The school is located right next to the main road leading to Maseru and I have passed it many times without knowing what a treasure it is.  The first 3-room classroom block was built in 1993 with assistance from Irish Aid.   Another similar block was built in 1998 with funding from the American Embassy.  And three years ago their third classroom building was completed thanks to a generous bequest from New Zealand. 

Lerato LEC Primary School is now one of the best primary schools and has about 280 students in Standards 1-7 and a staff of 12 government-supported teachers. The classrooms are relatively spacious compared to many schools and there are plenty of windows to bring light in.  The conditions have been a blessing to both staff and students.  In recent years the school has had a 100% pass rate for their Standard 7 students on the national primary school leaving examinations.  The staff seem very dedicated to their students and the hard work has brought good results. 

Not only is it excelling academically, but their school choir, which performed when I visited recently, has captured first place in the national primary school competition the past four years.  I have heard many primary and high school choirs during my years in Lesotho, but I have never heard anything quite like this choir.  If I closed my eyes, I would have thought it was an adult choir as the voices were so mature.  With a sound like theirs, no wonder they are No. 1!

Many schools in the more remote areas of Lesotho are not as fortunate as Lerato Primary.  Down in the southwest corner of Lesotho the terrain becomes rather rugged.  Another photo was taken from in front of Bolahla LEC Primary School at an altitude of 7500 feet.  Although the location is only about 11 miles “as the crow flies” from Masitise where I used to live, it took over two hours from there by road traversing the mountains to reach it, including a mile hike at the end of the journey. 

And what did I find there upon my arrival?  Well, the photo just about speaks for itself.  This primary school consists of one small room built of stone, plus a canvas-walled lean-to for a second room.  Other than the great outdoors, that’s all there is for the 75 students in Standards 1-7 and their four teachers.  I was told that by Easter more students would probably have come bringing the number of students to over 100.  

Conditions inside the stone structure were cramped, to say the least.  Two small windows provided the only source of light.  It was a calm, warm, sunny March day on my visit and the open doorway added quite a bit of light.  But imagine what it must be like on a cloudy, rainy day.  Bad as it might be, it would still be better than being in the “canvas” room where there is even less protection from the elements.  Or think of a cold, blustery, winter day.  Some days, I was told, the weather made it impossible to hold classes.

The school has been there for decades and despite what you might think, the teachers are dedicated.  I was told parents prefer to send their kids to Bolahla because of the effort of the teachers, but with such poor facilities, some parents are sending their children to schools much further away.  Ten years ago there were hopes for a new school from a donor.  The local chief allocated a site and villagers worked hard to construct a rough track to improve access.  But the project fell through and no fruit came of their efforts.

The words of Revelation 2:2 are relevant for both of these schools.  Hard work and perseverance enabled Lerato Primary to get off the ground and take off!  And while Bolahla Primary has struggled, certainly only perseverance and hard work has allowed the school to endure to this day despite the odds stacked against it.  What keeps them going?  Romans 5:4-5 provides some clues:  “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”   One of the projects I’m currently working on with the LEC Education Office is to see that the hopes of Bolahla are fulfilled.  Your prayers for this work are appreciated!

Yours in Christ,

Mark Behle
Email:  mark37438@yahoo.com

Mark Behle is a missionary with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is working to identify development projects, assist the church in preparing project proposals and coordinating project implementation.