By Tsitsi Matope
MASERU — The Vodacom Lesotho Foundation will intensify its corporate social investment activities next year with the introduction of two major projects on HIV and Aids and mobile education in some primary schools.
Project Leseli, an HIV and Aids initiative, aims to promote HIV testing, referral and treatment of young people aged 18 and below to ensure they remain on treatment if infected by the virus.
On the other hand, the Mobile Education Project, which aims to bring educational tablets to classrooms, will be piloted in select primary schools to promote interactive learning for children from a young age.
Pupils will be provided tablets loaded with the approved curriculums in an effort to develop both critical thinking and analytical skills of pupils.
The impact of the pilot project is expected to trigger and determine the nature of the roll-out phase.
This is the Foundations’ new strategy to introduce high impact projects with the view of creating significant shifts in communities across the country.
The new comprehensive approach seeks to deal with systematic challenges that in most cases hamper social and economic development.
In an interview this week, the Head of the Vodacom Foundation and Communications, Mpho Brown, said the selection of the two projects followed a rigorous review of several other project proposals.
“We have not done much work this year and this is why next year we would like to tackle bigger projects that will significantly transform the lives of Basotho. The two projects are among a couple of other projects that the Foundation would also undertake next year,” Brown said.
The Vodacom Lesotho Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of Vodacom Lesotho and a subsidiary of the Vodafone Group Foundation.
It operates as a separate legal entity from Vodacom Lesotho with the aim to help address various development challenges in areas that are in line with the government’s National Strategic Development Plan.
However, Brown said the challenge was that most people were not aware of the existence of the Vodacom Foundation and its mandate to support community-based initiatives and improve the lives of Basotho.
“We are planning to launch an awareness event that would help people understand the role of the Foundation and how they can use it as a vehicle for development,” Brown said.
Since its launch in 2010, Vodacom Foundation has supported programmes that tackled challenges around peace and nation building, poverty and food insecurity, education, unemployment, economic development, gender equality and HIV and Aids.
Past beneficiaries include the Maphutsing Irrigation Scheme in 2011 which got a grant to improve their irrigation infrastructure for improved agricultural production, Population Services International (PSI) which received funding for its “Test for your Team” Soccer Tournament in 2011 and Kick4Life, which got a grant to develop the Football For Hope Centre in 2012.
“We believe as the private sector, we have a critical role to play in the socio-economic development of Lesotho. We also strongly believe that a healthy and well educated society can better drive the development of this country. This is why next year we are going to launch much bigger projects that seek to ensure better delivery of health and educational services,” Brown said.
He further explained that despite the two major projects identified, there are other current efforts to support other developmental initiatives.
“We currently partnered with the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) in this week’s national conference to celebrate and reflect on the 20 years of democracy in Lesotho. We support conversations like this with the understanding that we all need good governance and peace to ensure a conducive business environment.”
On the other hand, he said next year the Foundation will also partner with other stakeholders, who include development partners and the government in the roll-out of Project Leseli.
The initiative, he said, comes after a realisation that out of the more than 40 000 people aged 18 and below living with HIV, only about 4 000 (four thousand) are on treatment.
Brown said the Foundation will implement the Vodacom’s mobile communications platform and its M-Pesa money transfer system to strengthen linkages between infected and referred people and health facilities.
“We will also use our technology to remind those that would have tested positive to get treatment.”
He said community health workers will play a critical role in following-up on the targeted group, particularly in ensuring that they have all the resources needed to access health facilities and adhere to treatment.