‘Montech here to stay’

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Thabo Stephen Monyamane Jr, the Chief Executive Office of the Montech

THE Maseru-based Monyamane Technology Institute (Montech) offers certificate and diploma courses in health and safety, culinary arts and accountancy studies.

On 29 September this year, 98 of the institute’s students graduated in the various programmes that range from intensive eight-week training to two-year courses Montech is also in the process of transforming into a full-fledged university.

In this wide ranging interview, Lesotho Times (LT) reporter Billy Ntaote speaks with Montech Chief Executive Officer Thabo Stephen Monyamane Jr about the institute and other related issues.

LT: Can you briefly tell us about Montech and its history.

Monyamane: Montech is an institute formerly known as Health and Safety Training Centre. It was established in 2007 by Thabo Stephen Monyane Snr who is my father.

I joined him in 2011 and that is when we started our full time programmes. At that time, we were only training people at the Health and Safety certificate level.

However, in 2015 we then embarked on a journey towards becoming a university. We are still on that journey, so we had to change the name from Health and Safety Training Centre which was a niche to Montech.

LT: Under which institution are you registered and accredited to provide this training?

Monyamane: We are currently registered with the Ministry of Education and Training under TVED which is Technical Education and Vocational Training. The plan that is ongoing is to migrate to Council on Higher Education in Lesotho. We offer three programmes, namely Health and Safety and Environmental Management up to diploma level, Culinary Arts up to an advanced diploma level and then ACC (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Accounting so far up to a CAT (Certified Accounting Technician) level. With the migration to Council on Higher Education we will be offering a degree in partnership with ERICA from South Africa and the Davinci Institute in South Africa.

So that programme would be accredited by both the South African Institute of Occupation Health and Safety and South African Qualifications Authority, and we would have the local accreditation as well.

With the culinary arts programme, we already work in partnership with International Hotels School, which currently is the largest hotels school on the continent. We are also working closely with the Matekane Group of Companies, with its wing Mpilo Boutique Hotel.

For the four weeks in a month, the students are attached at Mpilo Boutique Hotel for three weeks. Then once a month for a week they are based at the institute doing their theoretical sessions.

All those courses are conducted by the International Hotels School, under Montech. Upon completion, they will graduate because the course is a first-year certificate in culinary arts that has City and Guilds.

LT: Tell us about the recent graduation ceremony and the road ahead for students who completed their studies here?

Monyamane: We just had our 20th graduation ceremony. It may sound like a lot but it is not.

LT: How long do your courses take?

Monyamane: When we started the certificate programme, which is an eight week course, we used to have four graduation ceremonies in a year. It was because we were having quarterly courses. Now with the diploma programme it takes two years. This is our first diploma programme since 2011. The last one we carried out was in 2007 to 2009. So this is the first group of the diploma level that has graduated since then. And it was a total of 42 students. With the certificate programme, we had 56 students graduating this month.

Of these 98 students who just graduated, 30 percent of the diploma level students were absorbed into industry before they even graduated. The reason for this is when some of them come to the institute, they would be attached to a particular company.

LT: Why is it important for the workplace to have health and safety systems in place?

Monyamane: In every single environment, there are systems required. In finance, there are financial systems that are required. The purpose of health and safety is to protect people, materials, equipment and the environment. In every single industry there are risks associated with that particular work. Even being a journalist like you has risks attached to it. Just to give an idea, you are always travelling from one place to another by road. If you don’t adhere to road safety regulations, you will have a problem and secondly if you are not taught how to assess the environment and know what is hostile and what is not hostile you can also put your life at risk. You then need to make calculated risks.

LT: Where do these health and safety students conduct their work and why is it necessary to have such systems in place?

Monyamane: In a work environment, let’s say textile industry, chemicals are used. Some of them are highly toxic and flammable. Unless people know what type of chemicals are used and the danger exposure to them would pose, they risk dying. In the past, our communities would have complaints about chest pains, and that was caused by people inhaling these toxics and dangerous substances. But as a health and safety practitioner you are able to protect the environment and identify all of the operational risks.

LT: What does a company benefit by having health safety workers and the systems in the work place?

Monyamane: A lot of time and money is saved that would have been used for the healthcare of employees missing from work due to ill health. Companies also save money by not hiring people to act as temporary replacements for the sick employees. They also save their company money in terms of reputation and loss of contracts. For instance, on our eligibility for Africa growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), it is clear on the health and safety requirements that should be in place as another criteria of eligibility. So without having those systems in place, companies would lose their eligibility to sell to the US markets.

LT: Where do we find the laws dealing with health and safety?

Monyamane: All the health and safety laws of this country are embodied in the Labour Code Order 25 of 1992. Because they are embodied in that law, we then consider them as labour issues. However, if we were to separate them you would realise that it embodies industrial relations, health and safety issues, environmental issues, compensation issues. So you have to comply with all those issues to be eligible and even for other international buyers. They insist on health and safety systems and committees. Looking iat the past five years, there has been significant development in the health and safety sectors. The major cause of that is educating people about the need to have health and safety systems in place.

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