An estimated 1,400 girls dropped out of school across the country this year.
This was shared recently during the Menstrual Health and Hygiene Appreciation and Advocacy Breakfast hosted by the Hlokomela Banana initiative – an initiative championed by Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso to help retain girls in schools by providing essential sanitary kits.
The event was supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Mpeake Sekhibane, the Project Manager for Hlokomela Banana, shed light on the initiative’s efforts and the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When COVID-19 hit we went down to zero because we could not do the deliveries. However, in the first quarter of 2023, we supported 4,304 girls, the second quarter was 4, 486 and then the third quarter was 4,219,” Sekhibane said.
“While we aimed to support 10,000 girls in the fourth quarter of 2023, regrettably, 1,400 girls dropped out, leaving us with 8,606 beneficiaries,” he added.
He attributed these dropouts to early marriages, pregnancies, and financial constraints faced by parents unable to pay school fees.
Sekhibane highlighted that the reported numbers do not include boys, painting a distressing picture of children leaving the educational system.
He revealed that the initiative extended its reach to ten districts across the country, aiding 685 girls in Mokhotlong, 1,423 in Botha Bothe, 987 in Leribe, 585 in Berea, 2,489 in Maseru, 587 in Mafeteng, 373 in Mohale’s Hoek, 774 in Quthing, 304 in Qacha’s Nek, and 399 in Thaba Tseka.
This sums up to a total of 8,606 girls benefiting from the program.
Additionally, Sekhibane disclosed that in 2022, the initiative received total pledges amounting to M590,000 from various companies.
Notably, 21,615 dignity pads were distributed in the fiscal year 2023, alongside 64,845 packets of pads to beneficiaries, thanks to the considerable support from corporate pledges and contributions from Lil-lets company, he said.
Expressing gratitude for the efforts being taken towards the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from sanitary pads, Sekhibane urged the government to allocate annual funds for menstrual health and hygiene programs in their budget.
Minister of Education Ntoi Rapapa commended Queen ‘Masenate Bereng Seeiso’s initiative for its substantial impact in retaining girls in schools, acknowledging the collective effort from various sectors in supporting girls’ education.
While acknowledging concerns about girls dropping out of school, Rapapa noted a decrease in absenteeism among girls associated with the initiative.
He also highlighted the growing involvement of the private sector in educational investments, citing the substantial contributions received after Roger Federer’s pledge of close to M40 million in the education sector.
“After Roger Federer was here and pledged close to M40 million in the education sector, we have seen private sector also coming and a number of companies continue to pledge and currently they have pledged close to M20 million to support education,” he said.
Rapapa also expressed the ministry’s intent to discuss budget allocations for menstrual health and hygiene in the upcoming fiscal year, further emphasising the government’s commitment to supporting education initiatives.