After ten months in Lesotho, I’ve finally figured out a community development project that the principal, teachers and parents at my rural school, show positive signs of being invested in.
My original project of starting a community center took a 180 degree turn following the heavy snows we experienced in July. After several days of continuous snowfall, the frosted pine trees started sagging, causing the loaded branches to snap onto the corrugated tin roof of my school. Imagine my 5th grade students’ faces when they arrived at school on August 1st, the first day of the new quarter, and discovered they no longer had a classroom. My thought was: How and where am I going to teach my kids?
I was given the hall to teach, but it’s next to the outdoor kitchen, where the papa is cooked on a wood burning stove for several hours, and the smoke enters the hall through the broken window panes, facing the kitchen.
My eyes sting as I’m not used to smoke. The children cook this way at home, but are also complaining about the smoke in our classroom.
We put the blackboard up against the window to block the smoke. It still enters through the top of the window.
The snow also damaged village priest’s building next to my school. He kept his sheep inside, and they died when the roof collapsed. The community skinned the sheep and dried the hides on his roof.
Everything takes forever to fix when you live in a rural village in Lesotho. There is no “Home Depot” or small hardware store, let alone skilled labor in my village. That’s not surprising, as there isn’t even a store to buy fresh vegetables, fruits or meat, unless you drive to the closest town: an hour by public transport.
The second problem, which I’m used to hearing at my school in Lesotho is: “There’s no money.”
I decided to prioritize the rebuilding of the classroom, and to add another pressing need I’m excited to share with you as the students are eager to learn this important skill.
The community wants to wire the entire school now that our village has electricity.
Only the staff room is wired for electricity at my school. It’s about time that all the classrooms get electricity. In winter, we have to keep the doors open to get sufficient light to see the blackboard. Icy winds blow inside the classroom, and both the teachers and a few students who can afford it, are wrapped from head to toe in the traditional Basotho blankets.
The Minister of Energy donated four computers and a printer to our school when the electricity was officially turned on. I haven’t been able to set them up. Why?
1). They’re locked up in the principal’s convent.
2). We don’t have burglar bars installed on the windows so they might get stolen.
3). We don’t have electricity in the classrooms; only the staff room.
We just received the new curriculum from the Ministry of Education, and teaching students how to use a computer is now on the syllabus. There are no more excuses for not removing the computers from the convent, where they are collecting dust.
If I can raise enough money, the principal and teachers would also like to have linoleum floors installed on the broken concrete slabs in the classrooms. Only the staff room and grade 7 have linoleum floors, but all the other classrooms have these ugly, cracked, cold floors.
One of the key components to the success and sustainability of a community development project is to:
- Form a community committee with specific roles for volunteers
- Ask for community contribution, not necessarily in cash, but in preparing lunch for the workers, painting the classroom, offering any skills they may have
- Try to get the community to help with transportation of supplies and labor
After my counterpart, the principal and I put together a community committee to determine the goals and objectives, receive quotes for the repairs, costs of materials, supplies and equipment, and all has been approved by the Peace Corps, I am going to accept donations for my school, through the Peace Corps website.
I hope you will be able to help make this community development project a success, and promise to do my utmost to speed things up, and give the kids a better learning environment.
I will keep you updated once everything is approved, and we can start the community development project. Please be patient, (something I’m still learning) everything takes time here. Please share my post if you know someone who might like to help with my community development project.