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