Moshoeshoe Day Celebrations: A Big Event in Lesotho

Sonia and Mamo-facing each other

March 11th, was Moshoeshoe Day, pronounced (Moshway-shway) in Lesotho. What is it? It’s the day the Basotho commemorate the death of the country’s founder.

All schools, including my small, Catholic school start preparing for this day, when school opens on January 25th, after the summer holidays—yes, we’re in the southern hemisphere here in Lesotho, southern Africa.

It’s a full-day event where children from various schools participate in sporting events, and traditional songs and dances.

Here’s how my first Moshoeshoe Day took place.

“Are you ready to walk?” ‘M’e Mamoshaka, the teacher from my school asks.

“How far?”

“Over there, by the nipple mountains.”

View of Nipple mountains from my house

View of Nipple mountains from my house

I see those nipple mountains from my rondavel, and they are by no means next door.

“That far?”

Mamoshaka looks at my shoes. “Are you wearing those?”

Teva sandals are good for walking, but I notice her hiking boots. It’s too hot to wear boots, so I keep my open-toe sandals on.

We leave my place at 8:35 a.m. and take the short-cut up and down the rocky, red-dirt clay path; the one carved out by cattle and sheep traipsing to the pastures, as well as the children walking from remote villages to school.

After 45 minutes, we reach the main road. Mamoshaka is wearing a long-sleeved gray sweater, and  complains about her new curly hair extensions she had braided onto her own half-inch long African hair.

“I’m too hot with this hair,” she says.

“But you look beautiful with your curls. How long did it take to have those extensions put in?” She missed school on Thursday to go to the hairdresser in Maseru.

'M'e Mamoshaka, I work with her at my school

‘M’e Mamoshaka, I work with her at my school

“I was at the hair place for ten hours, and there is still a piece missing in the back, but I was too tired to stay longer.”

“Ten hours! That must cost a lot,” I say, knowing how everyone in my village keeps telling me they have no money, and yet, they get hair extensions, and buy the Seshoeshoe pronounced (Seshwayshay) traditional dress you see us wearing in the photo. All the teachers had them custom made, and I chose the color purple.

Had I known this walk was not what I call a “walk” but more like a mountain-climbing expedition, I would probably have stayed home; but I had bought the dress though, and promised the teachers I would be there.

Steep slopes to climb and I had to drag Mamoshaka up the hill.

Steep slopes to climb and I had to drag Mamoshaka up the hill.

Small children in their green uniforms pass us on their way to the school. We get there two hours later, all sweaty and exhausted, and then the poor kids start running the 100m-500m-800m and finally the 1.2km races. One of the girls from our school usually wins the races, however today, she was slower than usual. I am told this is because her parents did not feed her breakfast. Neither parent works, and they beg for food from their neighbors. As Mary, (my host mother explains,) they are both lazy. I felt sorry for the children, especially when lunch was served, and the teachers were given chicken, lamb, rice, carrot salad, vegetables and dessert before the children were allowed to eat lunch.

I helped serve lunch to the hungry children, and their food was in a large bucket. It contained samp, (a lumpy grain) mixed with a red sauce, and porridge. I felt guilty about eating better food, and being served before the children.

After lunch we changed into our Seshoeshoe dresses, and listened to the children sing and dance.

Sonia and Mamokete and Mamo

Mamokete (1st grade teacher, left) , me and Mamoshaka (7th grade teacher). I teach English in both their classes.

The children are performing and we watch all three schools compete.

boys from school

Girls dancing.



Everyone is happy, including the nun, (Principal) of my school. Watch them sing and dance.

The hike back home was horrendous. I had to help ‘M’e Mamoshaka climb the rocky cliffs, and I am 21 years older than her. Now I know why it’s important to go for my morning walks, and why I need to keep exercising.

What an experience for me to participate in the Moshoeshoe festivities. Next year, on March 11th, everyone has to hike to our school, as we shall be hosting the event.





Comments (6)

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  1. Ian Mathie says:

    So good to see you are joining in all these important events with such gusto. That is certainly the right way to get the best out of the experience. The photos are great and really bring it alive. Keep practicing your mountain walking!

  2. Sonia Marsh says:

    Thank you Ian. I did enjoy seeing this important event and I actually enjoyed seeing how parents around the world are all the same: they love to cheer for their own children.
    Sonia Marsh recently posted..Moshoeshoe Day Celebrations: A Big Event in LesothoMy Profile

  3. Alana Woods says:

    Sonia, in retrospect did you wish you’d worn your boots!
    Alana Woods recently posted..Alana Woods interviews MARY SMITH, author of No More MulberriesMy Profile

  4. Carol says:

    Sonia, you don’t look 21 years older than your teacher!
    It must be awful feeling guilty so often, how do you tackle
    it? Such lovely scenery,it must be magical…

  5. Sonia Marsh says:


    I am adapting and learning that the children are brought up this way. They never complain, which is something I admire.
    Sonia Marsh recently posted..Moshoeshoe Day Celebrations: A Big Event in LesothoMy Profile

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