By Staff Writers

Maseru, Dec 15 (The Night’s Watch) – Aiming to help pay school fees for not fewer than 100 high school students whose parents have lost their livelihoods as a direct result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, Kananelo Boloetse has launched a crowdfunding initiative.

Titled #BackToSchool, the campaign was launched on Monday, December 14, with the intent to raise enough funds to provide immediate, much needed financial support for high school students.

Boloetse is a journalist.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted society in many ways, whether it’s personally, socially, economically, professionally or financially, and the recovery timeframe from this unique period in history knows no bounds.

Students are no exception, but high school students are the most affected. They are required to fork out for school fees while students in primary schools and institutions of higher learning get a generous support from state.

Primary education is free and compulsory, and government through the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS), provides study loans to virtually all Basotho who get admitted to tertiary institutions in the country and abroad.

In October this year, Boloetse wrote an article for Public Eye which revealed that thousands of high school students did not return to school when classes resumed on October 6, as their parents who are suffering from income loss as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent national lockdown, could no longer to pay school and examination fees.

The article shone so much light onto the plight of the country’s most improvised high school students.

The government responded to this crisis by promising that it will through the Ministry of Social Development, throw a lifeline to all Form C and Form E students who had dropped out and pay their fees.

“However, it is common knowledge that government has indicated several times that it is struggling as its purse is almost empty,” Boloetse said in a press statement on Monday.

He said “as a journalist who believes in the journalism for Social Justice, journalism that focuses on making the world a better place”, he believes the time has come for willing individuals and private organizations to step up to the plate in order to help government protect the gains the country has been making in wiping out illiteracy.

“Lesotho has in recent years made admirable strides in empowering her people through free compulsory basic education. Numbers show that in the Southern African region and the African continent at large, our nation is in the league of the leading pack in fighting illiteracy.

“The situation of significant numbers of pupils in high schools failing struggling to pay fees threatens to erase decades of progress and reverse all the huge gains the country has made on that front. Preventing this crisis from becoming a catastrophe requires urgent action from all,” he said.

He indicated that his campaign supports the government in ensuring that all students return to classes.

“By contributing to this initiative”, he said, “we can remove financial barriers and help more high school students to overcome social disadvantage and have a brighter future”.

“Members of the public or businesses who would like to donate can do so by making deposits into the Ecocash Account opened specifically for this initiative. Merchant Code: 43083. Arrangements are being made to quickly open a Mpesa account and an announcement will be made soon.

“We are looking for willing accountants and/or auditors to volunteer to manage the accounts on our behalf. All the transactions will be made public at the end of the campaign,” concluded Boloetse.

He is known, among his peers, for single-handedly waging war on two multinational mobile telecommunications companies, operating in that in Lesotho, Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) and Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) accusing them of ripping off data customers.

In October 2018, he wrote a letter to Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) asking it to order Econet and Vodacom to stop charging customers out-of-bundle rates for data when their data has run out without the customers’ specific prior consent.

He also wanted LCA to instruct the two mobile operators to allow their customers to roll over unused data upon expiry so that consumers do not lose their unused data, and allow customers to transfer data to each other provided they are on the same network.

LCA is an independent regulatory body of the Lesotho government, established in 2000 by the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority Act No. 5 of 2000 to regulate both the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors in the public interest.

Earlier this year it issued a directive to Econet and Vodacom that they should stop charging customers from their airtime when bundles expire or get depleted.

On October 5, LCA reportedly announced at its press conference that it was going to issue yet another directive that ETL and VCL should allow users to rollover their unused bundles when they expire.

In May this year, he wrote an open letter to the Education and Training Minister Ntlhoi Motsamai asking her to consider introducing free secondary education by abolishing school fees and textbook rental fees as soon as possible. NW

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