Many student teachers have joined the Basotho Maths Club. This innovative way of training long distance using Facebook was started by Sion Watkins after returning to Wales. He went to Lesotho this year from January to March and continued to lead training and lesson modelling in Maths. He is now continuing 'Club' and has 74 members already!
Its success is a testament to our volunteers work with the Thaba Tseka campus of Lesotho College of Education. Our second long term volunteer Anne Loughran had a chance to meet with lecturers and students this year (albeit her trip was cut short) to measure impact and plan ahead for our collaboration with the University of Wales Trinity St. Davids. One of the highlights of her short trip was a Maths workshop held for High School teachers, lecturers and students in Thaba Tseka town. A great model for working together.
A survey was sent to all teachers who visited Wales in 2019 and those who were due to visit in 2020, it asked many questions about their access to teaching and learning during lockdown and what challenges they face. Dolen’s priority is now to plan effective online solutions for home learning, teacher training and teacher mentoring over the coming year.
A second survey is in process with a consultation group in Lesotho to move this forward.
Hear from one of our volunteers Mr Anthony Stevenson here:
I have previously had very few opportunities to have a such a central and active role at a teachers’ conference before and certainly never in one south of the equator! It was a great learning experience for me to be involved right from the inception of the idea through to the delivery of the programme. However, it would have been almost impossible to deliver had it not been for the experience, local-knowledge, professionalism and passion of Sion Watkins. His ‘finger on the pulse’ knowledge of what learning was needed and his local knowledge of where to source resources and establish professional links was invaluable.
Volunteers Ceri Morris, Sion Watkins, Anthony Stevenson, Gwawr Morris & British High Commissioner to Lesotho Anne Macro
Back in Lesotho for a third time is a little like going to an old school reunion; you sort of can’t pass up the opportunity to go in case you miss out on something special, and yet you’re not sure if everything is as wonderful as you thought it was! On reflection though, I feel I’m in a position to come up with 8 things I’ve learnt from this shortened visit…..
1. Public transport is not for the faint hearted
Yes, I’ve taken public transport here before, somehow though I’ve not crammed in as many journeys and in particular long ones to Maseru. This year’s experiences were bizarre. A journey to Maseru in a 1960’s bus with I suspect no brakes as most of the downhill sections were in second gear. The bus had 56 seats and was carrying 96 people. That doesn’t include the mattresses, cooking utensils and other household items on board. I learnt a couple of things on this journey…. When the final horn is blasted at the start of the journey it signifies for half the passengers currently buying supplies to get on and at same time it warns the other half, currently on the bus that they have to buy supplies.Read more
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
-Winnie the Pooh
Sion Watkins from Lesotho May 2019
As usual whenever I travel things do not go smoothly. My holiday in Namibia was incredible but a luggage scanner fault at Windhoek meant that my flight to Johannesburg was late and the resultant connection to Maseru missed. I spent a night in the airport hotel fretting about a course I’d arranged for my first day back, trying desperately to contact Anne who was to meet me without wi-fi from either end. It’s at these moments that you realise how much technology has a grip on your life and also how even in Africa with so many differences, technology is where the catch up is greatest.
I made it by 7.00am with an early morning flight and by 8;30 Anne and I were back in a routine running the fourth of our courses in Maseru district. The 40 or so teachers were responsive and keen to embrace the ideas we were peddling. The key difference to what they’ve experienced before is a sense of fun, showing not telling and a verbal engagement.
We arrived back in Morija guest house here I promptly slept. It’s a joy to stay there, Brigitte is so unassuming, you have the run of the place, you meet a myriad of different people. Best of all it’s not an ex-pat scene. This time staying with us was an Episcopalian priest and his daughter travelling Southern Africa on a Sabbatical from the US. The German kids doing their year out were also there and as usual great fun. Food was excellent, I love the fact it’s just a set meal and we all sit around a large table chatting. I had an amazing chakalaka - home made something I’ll have to try making in Wales.
The big decision we made was based on Wednesday 1st May being a holiday. We decided to extend our stay not rush off after the course and use the holiday as a road trip to Thaba Tseka. The course the next day in Morija was interesting. Again around 40 or so, but because of a lack of communication we arrived for 9 whereas the teachers had arrived for 8. Now this is priceless as Basotho time and its flexibility is the most frustrating thing I experience here. They just accept it as people in the UK accept, they’re not good at maths. However, the fact we were not on time was an outrage. Honestly the grim faces didn’t bode well. In reality along with Semongkong it was the best course we had, loads of happy, engaged, positive teachers and such a sense of joy.
The journey back to Thaba Tseka was the first time for me to drive it and the experience is incomparable. Sitting as a passenger you don’t get a sense of the scale of the mountains, the tortuous roads and the perpetual code of conduct needed to avoid animals and casual walkers. The drive from Maseru starts on plains but then you hit the Maluti trail with three astonishing passes through them. I say passes but it’s really a" long and winding road” to quote the Beatles. The first is the highest climb from around 1550m to 2250m - this is Bushman’s pass and in a small toyota involves a lot of second gear. The second the aptly names ‘God help me pass’ is a series of winding roads similar to the Alps with spectacular views and sheer drops. The last the ‘Blue Mountain pass’ just takes your breath away. The whole journey is around 180km but takes around 3 and a half hours - if you travel with Anne add another hour for a coffee break and numerous photo stops!