May 22, 2003

Government clamps down on illegal schools

The Senior Education Officer in the Leribe district, 'Mabakubung Seutloali says the Department of Education in the district is doing everything in its power to ensure that the learning process of learners affected by the on-going closure of illegal high and primary schools is not negatively affected.

Seutloali's assurance that the learning process of pupils and students would not be affected comes at a time when government through the Ministry of Education is currently clamping down on and shutting down all schools not legally registered with the Ministry of Education as required by the Education Act No. 10 of 1995. In a telephonic interview, Senior Education Officer Seutloali told Mopheme - The Survivor that: "So far we have closed down 32 primary and high schools in different parts of the Leribe district and some are still to come as there are many illegal schools in the district." However, she could not disclose the number of learners affected or to be affected by the closure of illegal schools because "we are still compiling the numbers of the pupils and students affected and we still have to close down more schools. So it would be difficult to give you the exact number of learners affected."

Senior Education Officer Seutloali stressed that the Department of Education in the district has talked to parents about the closure of illegal schools and has reassured them that everything was being done to ensure that learners were absorbed and admitted into legal schools to avoid disruption of their learning process, especially during this time of examinations. "We have met with head teachers of legal schools in the district and pleaded with them to absorb these kids from illegal schools so that they can be able to write their examinations and continue with the learning process. The head teachers have shown willingness and preparedness to do so where spaces are still available. But, where there are problems we will talk to the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) to help out especially for students who are writing their external exams because they have already paid their examination fees. We really sympathize with the learners affected but there is nothing we can do as we are required by the law to close down illegal schools. The real culprits are the owners of these illegal schools as they knew well that they were violating the law when they operated such schools," she added.

However, Senior Education Officer Seutloali vehemently denied reports that the Department of Education used armed members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to force out learners out of classrooms at illegal schools. "That is absolutely not true. It is true that we were accompanied by members of police, the National SecurityService (NSS) and officials of the Department of Education when went to these schools. But they were not armed and did not force learners out of classrooms. As for the Defence Force, they were absolutely not involved in this exercise," stressed Seutloali.

The closure of illegal schools is expected to blanket the whole country as, over the years, many illegal schools under fancy names and the so-called English Medium schools have mushroomed in many parts of Lesotho. Without necessarily sounding xenophobic and racist, many of the illegal schools were and are owned by some unscrupulous foreigners who took and continue to take advantage of the leniency and laxity on the part of government officials to enforce laws governing education in Lesotho. Some observers and parents believe that the drastically deteriorating standards of education in Lesotho are partly due to these illegal schools which do not adopt and effect correct curricula in their schools. (Mopheme/The Survivor, Maseru)

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