Lesotho Culture, Activities and Goodbyes
Since the Easter Break I have been lucky to experience Basotho culture both in school and during a visit to Maseru.
I was pleased to be invited to accompany the youngest children to the Thaba Tseka area Cultural Celebrations. In preparation, preschool and reception children had fun practicing their dances, the girls in lines singing and stepping, the boys chanting and kicking up their legs. The little ones arrived on the day of the event, excited and wearing traditional costumes, the girls in skirts made of maize bags, like grass skirts, the boys in jewel decorated panels, like skirts. The celebrations involved hundreds of tiny children dressed up, performing in their schools, definitely a high cuteness factor. The teachers dressed up and danced too, enjoying themselves. Even I wore an outfit but choose to be official photographer instead of dancing. The event concluded with a picnic, Basotho style, with children sitting in circles eating plates of rice, beans and chicken.
For older pupils, their cultural event, Macufe Day was very similar to a Welsh Eisteddfod. It was spectacular! Hours went into preparation; making skirts for the girls’ dance out of maize bags. With four bags for each skirt they were very time consuming to make but both girls, boys and teachers worked hard. Every night after school, large numbers practiced the different dances or singing in the choir. On the day, the older children from all the local schools arrived at the venue in their uniforms, covered in their traditional blankets in the dark blue and black of the Thaba Tseka design. All the dances were incredible, everyone had amazing rhythm, moving in time to the sound of their own choirs. The girls flicked up their skirts and the boys jumped and kicked up their legs. There was an amazing standard from all schools, each school excelling in different areas. Paray boys’ tribal dance captured the audience, they were so athletic, agile and powerful. All the dances represented part of their history and culture, along with poems and a play. The children have such a sense of pride in their customs and history. I am looking forward to the district finals.
Recently we travelled to Maseru take a Maths workshop and explore the city. It was good to be in a larger town, a treat to visit a coffee shop, the first time since January, and stock up with cheese and bacon from the Supermarket. A highlight was the visit to Thaba Bosiu, heritage site of King Moshoeshoe, founder of the Basotho people. We climbed the steep scared mountain, sat on the King’s stone and explored the remains of his villages from 1800’s. The view of surrounding villages and the distinctive Basotho Hat Mountain was spectacular. It was interesting to follow this trip up the mountain with a visit the museum, walking around the replica of the original village and learning about the different tribes.
It is ball game season so I have also been involved with Netball practice. It is very different to my Welsh school, on a dusty court with no official markings only the ones the girls make with a stick. The girls wear school uniform, with school shoes or bare feet and no bibs with positions. The standard is good, they are so athletic and enthusiastic. They would give my old teams in Penyrheol a very good match.
It is almost time to say our goodbyes, it is going to be an emotional time at the end of May, leaving Thaba Tseka. Over the last four months, we have each been accepted by the children and the staff in our schools as one of them. Last week I was touched when at the end of the day, four children of mixed ages came into the library and said “Mme Alyson, please will you read to us?” No way could I refuse.
I am going to miss my early morning walks to school and standing in morning assembly looking at all the smiling faces, listening to prayers and singing as I lookout over at the valley and mountain. Also feeling part of the community; the children calling ‘Mme Alyson’, Nnte Sion, Mme Vicki, as we walk around town and up the mountains, the locals calling ‘Lumela Mme.
I am going to miss the Welsh colleagues I have lived and worked with, the Basotho children and teachers. I am looking forward to going home; to warm weather, to see my family and friends and to work with the Basotho teachers during their visit to Wales and their stay in Llanelli.
I have so many memories, I am never going to forget my five months here in the mountains, the opportunity I have had to experience such a very different culture and be welcomed and accepted by the people of the community and the schools. I like to thank both the teachers and learners in Thaba Tseka and Dolen Cymru for this experience.