Lesotho teacher impressed by the American way

MASERU — A school principal from Lesotho spent time in America last month, visiting schools, picking the brains of computer gurus and speaking to civic clubs and other groups in an effort to learn about American culture.

Matlabe Teba, 49, plans to put what he learned to use in Ketane, where he is principal at Nohana Primary School.

Now that he has returned to Lesotho, Teba said he will lead a panel to discuss his findings and explore making changes in schools in country.

Teba said Lesotho wants to be “the first (in Africa) to incorporate these changes” into its school structure and that America is the best from which to learn. He said he hopes any changes will improve the comprehension level of Lesotho students.

Teba said he had learned much and seen many differences in how classes are taught in the United States and Ketane.

“Learners are free and when they learn like this, they do the best that they can,” Teba said after seeing students at Pueblo West High School in Colorado interact with their teachers, asking questions after discussions and speaking in front of the classroom.

What may seem simple or normal to most American students interested Teba.

“Things are done more seriously here. You see learners so greatly interested and they just do it themselves,” Teba said. “They are open to learn.”

He said that every person he has met has been very friendly and welcoming.

“Even though not very many people know a lot about where I am from, as soon as my foot touched the soil, I was welcomed,” Teba said.

Teba was able to visit Pueblo through the Foundation for International Professional Exchange, a 21-year-old nonprofit humanitarian organisation that facilitates the exchange of professional people between the US and Third World countries.

The foundation president is Pueblo West resident Jack Wilson, who said it seeks out those who are trying to catch up with the rest of the world.

Wilson said Teba was brought to Pueblo through the joint effort of the foundation and Laptops to Lesotho, a project that provides laptops to Lesotho schools. It was created by Pueblo native Andrew Dernovsek and a woman from Idaho, Janissa Balcomb.

Dernovsek spoke at Wilson’s church about the project and his experiences in Ketane while there for two years with the Peace Corps.

Dernovsek said his goal in Ketane was to find ways to produce permanent changes.

He said he hoped to educate villagers about HIV and Aids prevention. Lesotho has the third-highest rate of people who are infected by HIV or Aids in the world, according to the exchange foundation.

Dernovsek said he also helped build a library and a garden for the school and tanks for clean water for the village.

He worked various jobs in the village, including teaching and baking, but what mostly caught Wilson’s attention was the Laptops to Lesotho project.

Dernovsek said villagers were fascinated by his laptop and he taught a few of them to use it, sparking the idea to provide laptops for the students and train them to train other generations.

The school in Ketane has about 50 laptops that are circulated among the school of 375 students. The school has one desktop computer.

Dernovsek said the computers are used to teach students how to write and learn basic maths skills. There is no electricity in Ketane, so all the computers are run on solar power.

Ketane is the first Lesotho village to implement computers into its schooling. — McClatchy Newspapers

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