Peace Corps Programs in Lesotho

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 12:41 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Programs in Lesotho

Peace Corps Programs in Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country in southern Africa, which has two unique distinctions: it is one of only three independent countries in the world completely surrounded by another country (South Africa), and it is the only country with all of its land situated more than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level, giving it the highest low point of any nation. Being known for its mountainous terrain, Lesotho has many nicknames, such as The Roof of Africa, the Kingdom in the Sky, and Switzerland of Africa.

There are two major mountain ranges dissecting the country from northeast to the southwest: the Maluti Range and the Thaba Putsoa Range. These two dramatic ranges are split by deep ravines and river valleys, creating some of the most incredible scenery in all of Africa in one of its smallest countries. Lesotho's highest point, Thabana Ntlenyana, "nice little mountain," at 3,482 meters (about 11,000 feet), is the highest mountain in southern Africa.

The lowlands of Lesotho are shaped like a crescent along the western edge of the country, and although the lowlands are only 15 percent of the landmass, they contain 7 of 10 district capitals, most of the population, and the best agricultural land. This area is mostly dry and rolling, with typical flat-topped hills, or kopjies, characterized by sandstone cliffs and overhangs. Many of these still exhibit galleries of rock paintings from Bushmen of long ago. Moving through the lowlands, one typically travels past small villages, herds of grazing sheep and cattle, and croplands of maize and sorghum.

The climate of Lesotho is mostly dry and sunny, with clearly marked seasons. The winter months from June to September vary from chilly to cold to very cold depending upon the elevation. Days are normally filled with sunshine and intensely blue skies. Mean winter temperature in Maseru is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It freezes almost every night in the mountains and snow is common.

Summer, from November to February, is the rainy season. Rainfall amounts are inconsistent, with the tendency of rainfall in southern Africa to alternate between wet cycles of above-average rainfall, followed by dry cycles of similar length.

Though 85 percent of Lesotho is mountainous highland, it contains only 10 percent of the population. That leaves most of the Basotho inhabitants living in a small fraction of the country. The most recent census taken in 1992 indicates a current Lesotho population of 1.8 million people. It is a long way from the first official census of March 7, 1875, when 128,175 people existed in the country. Today, the capital city of Maseru itself has a population of over 100,000 people. Other towns of Lesotho, or camps as they are still referred to, owing back to the days of British Colonial occupation, are steadily increasing in size. These camps fringe the western border of Lesotho and provide access points to and from South Africa.

The Basotho are descendants of many different groups, including Sesotho-speaking people and those of Nguni origin (Xhosa, Zulu, and Swazi). In fact, the Nguni people gave the name Sotho (or Suthu) since the first people the Nguni encountered who spoke the Sotho language happened to live along the banks of the uSuthu (dark brown) River in Swaziland. They were then referred to as baSuthu, which has evolved into the current Basotho. Lesotho is one of few African nations with only a single vernacular language.

Education has always been a focal point for Peace Corps/Lesotho, beginning with the first group of teachers in 1967. Currently, Education Volunteers work to assist the Ministry of Education meet their needs in the areas of teacher training, early childhood development, and special education. Primary Education Resource Teachers conduct in-service trainings to increase the overall skills and qualifications of Basotho teachers. Early Childhood Education Volunteers create awareness among local communities about the importance of early childhood care and development; develop curriculum, literature and teaching aids for use by local early childhood teachers; and, train instructors to effectively facilitate related activities. Special Education Volunteers provide in-service trainings for current teachers responsible for children with special learning needs, and work to integrate special education into mainstream education, particularly at the primary school level.

Peace Corps participation in environmental education began with the first group of trainees arriving in May 1998. The genesis of the project was the desire of the government to expand environmental programming in rural areas of Lesotho. The goals of the Environmental Education project include assisting government ministries, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to expand environmental education awareness programs in rural areas. The immediate objective is to promote awareness as a precondition to sustained environmental action. The long term objective is to help the government and people of Lesotho recognize the importance of environmentally sustainable levels of human activity, and to work with local communities and organizations to identify and prioritize local environmental concerns. Once these concerns have been identified, Volunteers will work with all stakeholders to develop mechanisms and structures to address these concerns in a long term perspective.

Community Development
Community Development Volunteers assist individuals and communities learn new skills which will allow them to work in new areas. In this sector, Peace Corps has taken a two-pronged approach, placing Volunteers at vocational institutions, where they teach in a formal setting, as well as at the community level, where they work more informally with cooperatives. Basotho are benefiting from their new skills in carpentry, handicrafts, business, and agriculture.

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lesotho



By JOE RISS on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 10:43 pm: Edit Post


By BridgetAnn on Tuesday, April 15, 2003 - 11:28 am: Edit Post

HI Joe and Wife!!
My name is Bridget and I too am scheduled to be leaving for Lesotho in June of 2003. It looks like we will all be going together! I am actually looking for the same sort of information. Let me know if you have any luck!!

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