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Students pay heavy price for budget error

by Lesotho Times

letsieBy Tsitsi Matope

MASERU — Thabana-Li-Mele and ‘Matheko Vocational Training Centres in Maseru and Thaba-Tseka are still not providing training services since last year after a cocktail of challenges forced them to close down.

The closure of the centres, which fall under the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation affected close to 200 trainees.

Investigations by the Lesotho Times this week revealed that the initial causes of the closure included lack of teaching aides, food scarcity, unpaid school fees and the poor state of some of the buildings.

Some of the buildings leaked and flooded when it rained.

However, this year there was another excuse not to resume normal operations.

In an interview this week, the Acting Director for Youth, ‘Matšeliso Letsie, said an error during the national budget process forced them to further postpone opening the centres.

“There was no funding to enable full-scale operations. This was due to the mistaken omission of the programme during the national budget allocation,” Letsie said.

The youth skills development programme targets underprivileged young people, many of whom have not gone as far as the Cambridge Overseas Schools Certificate (COSC) qualification.

The training centres provide them the opportunity to undergo a two-year basic training in areas such as carpentry and joinery, agriculture, Know About Business (KAB), sewing and knitting, bricklaying and plastering and home economics.

Although all students are expected to pay M525 in their first-year, not all can afford the fees.

According to Letsie, Global Fund pays the second-year fees for all the students.

However, despite the closure, the department of Youth this week confirmed that despite training stoppage, the staff at both training centres were still reporting to work and also receiving their full salaries since last year.

“The instructors were also affected by the factors that led to the closure of the centres. However, the nature of their contracts requires us to continue paying their salaries despite the dire situation caused by resource-constraints.

“When the programme was omitted, their salaries too were omitted and we had to source for funds elsewhere to ensure we honour the contracts we have with them,” Letsie said.

She explained the ministry was waiting for funding for the next financial year to re-open the centres.

“At the moment we cannot say much in terms of what is happening to the affected students because we have not been able to follow them up due to lack of resources. However, they will all be contacted as soon as the financial situation has normalised.”

Further investigations also showed that there was need to review the training curriculums.

Some concerned officials at the Ministry of Gender said due to the lack of credibility of the qualifications and effectiveness to equip the trainees with appropriate skills, some graduates have failed to start their own income generating projects or get employed.

They also raised concerns over the qualifications of some of the instructors at both centres.

However, Letsie said issues raised were subject to a close analysis to ensure students benefitted fully from the programmes.

“All I can say for now is that after two years of training, the students receive certificates of appreciation.

“We are currently making efforts to improve operational structures at the centres. Therefore issues around evaluation of the curriculum and the qualifications of the instructors would also be analysed for improvements if necessary,” Letsie said.



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