My Opinion on How to Get Things Done in Lesotho


My opinion on how to get things done in Lesotho is based on treating people like I’d want them to treat me.

In the case of my school renovation project, it looks like the work will be completed before the scheduled date of November 28th.   How come? Because I believe in signing contracts, treating people with respect, and:

paying people on time, according to our agreement.  

In the U.S., projects have deadlines, and we do everything we can to meet those deadlines, because there are consequences if we don’t, like the risk of getting fired.

Here in Lesotho, the work ethic is completely different. If things aren’t accomplished on time, so what? No one is surprised; at least that’s what I’ve experienced in the 13 months I’ve been here. Perhaps things are different in the capital city, but somehow I doubt it.

For example, I was “promised” a cabinet to store all the wonderful donations I’ve received from generous people who wanted to improve my school. Supplies that we take for granted are lacking in my rural school such as: crayons, activity books, flash cards, pencils, felt tip pens, Sharpies, glue sticks, scissors, and let’s not forget the stickers that children love. My counterpart teachers advised me to keep everything at home until we could lock them up at school, otherwise they would soon disappear.

The principal said, “Children steal pens from each other,” which explains why several have nothing to write with. My Principal allows one new pen per semester, and basically “tough luck” if they don’t have a pen to write with.

So I’ve been waiting for a cabinet to lock these donations up since February, and I finally got one with a broken lock last week; it took nine months to get it, and school is almost on summer break, until January 23rd, 2017.


The Cabinet I’ve waited 9 months has finally arrived from another classroom.

Fortunately, the wonderful team I have working on the school project, replaced the lock on the same day. I no longer have to schlep everything from my rondavel, up the hill, to school.

We all know that money motivates people to work, especially in a poor rural villages, like mine. I’ve experienced time and time again, workers who are promised payment once the work is done, and who are then told, “There’s no money.”

So I’ve made sure to pay the work crew and cook, the money that we agreed upon, and they know I will. None of those excuses, “Sorry, I have no money,” a common excuse where I live.

I’ve also made sure that the work crew are well fed, as I heard, during my Peace Corps project workshop, that workers expect to get a meal. So the cook I hired, bakes fresh bread at home (there are no supermarkets in my tiny village) brings it to school, and then cooks lunch in the 7th grade classroom, since those students are no longer attending school.

Daily cooked fresh meals by a wonderful cook from my village.

Daily cooked fresh meals by a wonderful cook from my village.

So I hope that some lessons can be learned in my community on how to accomplish projects in a timely manner.

Comments (18)

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  1. Ian Mathie says:

    Sadly that may turn out to be a vain hope, given what you’ve told us about their attitudes yo your previous initiatives, the jealousy and the indifference of the school Principal and others. But you can always hope. Your work may, however, give any future PCV who works there a fighting chance to follow in your footsteps and achieve something.

    Well done for you efforts, all the same. It always pays, anywhere in the world, to treat people fairly and to do what you say you are going to do. AS you’ve shown, it can even work in Lesotho. 🙂

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      I know the contractor is so happy that he gets paid, and that he and his workers are well fed. They work very hard, and so far they will finish on Thursday. No thanks from the Principal as you gathered.

  2. Suellen Zima says:

    Keep in mind that there are many levels of success.

    In any case, I am glad that you were able to raise the money for the improvements. Well done.

  3. Carol says:

    Everything we do changes something, and I’m sure that one day, even if unconsciously,they’ll start imitating you, and some time things will begin to improve.I’m sure you’ve already started to see that improvement.

    • Ian Mathie says:

      This is Africa we’re talking about, Carol, and not just Africa, it’s Lesotho, and isolated mountain enclave where time has been standing rather still since it began. Positive change comes but slowly in Africa and only when it is constantly reinforced and they are left with no alternatives. The whole concept that we take for granted was never part of their original culture and the colonial years and post independence hand outs have taught them not to try on their own behalf. the rich foreigners will provide. So don’t hold out strong hopes. You have to be patient, very, very patient to achieve anything that lasts.
      I base this on 30 years hard direct experience, by the way.

      • Sonia Marsh says:

        Carol, I agree with what Ian says. I don’t see much change apart from the fact that the contractor and the workers are doing a good job and look forward to getting paid on time.
        Sonia Marsh recently posted..My Opinion on How to Get Things Done in LesothoMy Profile

        • Carol says:

          Well, that seems like change to me, well done for this success anyway!

          • Ian Mathie says:

            It’s certainly change, Carol. The question is: how long will it last, and will it be repeated when Sonia’s not there to drive it? Short term change is easy, but making it stick is like trying to catch steam in a sieve.

      • Carol says:

        Hi Ian, I fully understand what you mean. But there seems to be a faint glimmer of hope when you say that positive change could come very slowly,even if you have to be extremely patient.I wonder how you stood living in Africa for thirty years!

        • Ian Mathie says:

          I grew up with it, so it comes naturally. It’s western ways that confuse and disrupt me. They often have no logic to them – at least, no African Logic, which is entirely different!

          • Sonia Marsh says:

            Ian, I met an interesting South African man who told me there’s a “pecking order” in this culture, which is why I’m expected to greet people all the time, and I am surprised that you still think Western ways confuse you. Would you prefer to be here in my village in Lesotho?
            Sonia Marsh recently posted..My Opinion on How to Get Things Done in LesothoMy Profile

          • Carol says:

            So it seems, according to you(I know very little about African culture, mostly through you and Sonia!, that African logic is better than the confusing Western one; out of philosophical curiosity, it would really interest me to have your ideas on this, as I am a strong believer of leading simple lives!

          • Ian Mathie says:

            Sonia – yes there is a pecking order in many African Cultures and observing the courtesies is important to all of them, so saying ‘hello in the right way matters. In some cultures it can take up to half an hour! I suspect the men have honed that skill just to avoid doing anything that might involve work as the women greet one another far more succinctly.

            Carol -I would never say African logic is simple, just the opposite, It’s far more complicated than western logic (which is logical) and is often designed to confuse the unwary, thus providing a negotiating advantage. So you have to have your wits about you to use it.
            I’m not saying African logic is better, just that it’s different.

    • Sonia Marsh says:

      Carol, I answered below after Ian’s second comment.
      Sonia Marsh recently posted..My Opinion on How to Get Things Done in LesothoMy Profile

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