MPHO THAA THAA
QUTHING – Stakeholders have attributed the scourge of poor education which has led to a dismal failure rate in Quthing to the prevalence of Xhosa culture, which they deem as a barrier to Lesotho’s schools’ curriculum.
Quthing came out the worst performer out of the country’s ten districts both in the Junior Certificate (JC) and the Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE) with the pass rates of 45 and 63 percent, respectively, in the recently published 2018 results. The district still appeared at the bottom in the 2017 results.
The situation has since provoked relevant authorities in the Lesotho’s education sector to inquire what exactly is the problem in the far southern district.
A recent tour by the MNN Center for Investigative Journalism, with education officials from the district, has uncovered that among others, the Xhosa culture, also known as Sethepu in Quthing, was a major hindrance, according to the district’s teachers, parents and pupils interviewed by the Centre during the tour.
Quthing rests along the coast of South Africa’ s Eastern Cape province which is dominated by Xhosas. So close is the borderline that it has become a norm for a large number of Basotho from Quthing to just walk and jump the fence to do daily business in the Eastern Cape.
Residents told the Centre they bought milk, fetch wood and get piece jobs, among others, from the farms situated along the borderline in the province. Most of the Quthing residents do shopping at Sterkspruit, a town of the province, they said.
The same happens with the Eastern Cape residents who, some of them, just crossover to have themselves beer from bars and shebeens in Quthing, the Centre heard.
Other than the influence and cultural exchange between the district and the province, there is also the existence of Xhosasin large numbers whose roots are in Quthing.
The Centre has observed that while the tribe could communicate in three languages, Xhosa, Sesotho and English, there was also a large number that only manages to speak in Xhosa alone.
A frustrated Grade Three teacher, ’Mamoliki Mohlakola of Mjanyane (a Xhosa name) Primary said the poor performance by the learners should be attributed to the Xhosa culture, as the Lesotho schools’ curriculum does not engage the tribe.
Mohlakola said numerous Xhosa cultural practices play a big role towards the learners’ poor performance.
Other the problem of language, Mohlakola added it had become customary for Xhosa learners to leave school for traditional initiation.
“We are faced with a challenge of learners who leave school mostly in early June and sometimes do not come back to school after the winter holidays; others leave in November and sometimes even fail to sit for all their examination tests,” Mohlakola said.
During school terms, Mohlakola explained, half of the school learners, “particularly boys, leave schools for Ulwaluko (the Xhosa boys’ initiation).” At other times, the boys leave schools together with girls.
“It is claimed that these girls serve as cooks during the initiation term for the Abakhwetha (group of initiates) in line with the Xhosa culture. When they come back to school, if they do, honestly, sometimes one is not sure where to best pick from as a teacher because our work is guided by the yearly planning scheme which also has a time frame of what should be completed and when,” she said.
Mohlakola also spoke about the confusion that the initiates cause to other learners as they go back to school. She blames parents at some instances, for not acting responsible for their children education.
Another teacher from Alwynskop Primary School said it would help if parents and teachers developed a strategy on how best they could incorporate both the school curriculum and the culture “as they are equally important”.
“Pointing fingers at teachers and labeling them all sorts of things does not help anyone, especially the learners. The responsibility of learning does not lie with teachers alone, parents too are responsible towards the learners’ academic excellence”.
Lintle Sofonane, a villager and parent, shared similar sentiment on Ulwaluko process.
“My friend was at school fulltime and I don’t recall anyone coming into our classroom to chase her friend out so that she could accompany her brother to fulfill his initiation process.”
Sharing her story, a 23-year old Tebello Mxakaza narrated how she was made to leave Bolepetsa village in Quthing to spend Christmas holidays with her mother in Maseru, only to realise later that the plan was to escape her from accompanying her boy cousin to Ulwaluko.
“It was my grandmother who drove me out of Quthing at that time, saying I should go and spend the holidays with my mother who resides in Maseru. I was later made aware that it was plan for me to escape Ulwaluko…,” Mxakaza said.
The acting District Education Officer Lebohang Kala said it was unfortunate that the government could not enforce parents to prioritise their children’s education over culture.
Kala made a clarion call to Quthing parents to ensure their children received formal education first, before they could consider sending them to Ulwaluko.