Thirty-two-year-old â€˜Maamohelang Tefi was this week among 430 graduates awarded certificates affirming them as qualified artisans by the Lesotho High Development Authority (LHDA) in partnership with the ministry of education and training.
The graduates were given certificates on bricklaying and plastering, during a graduation ceremony held at Mokhotlong Pitso Ground last week Wednesday.
The certification of artisans is made to increase their livelihoods means following their experience and skills acquired through years of practical work.
LHDA and the ministry inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in March 2022, towards assisting workers by subjecting them to tests and then issuing qualifications for those who are successful.
Tefi, who started as a labourer is now a recognised bricklayer in Mokhotlong. Her certificate is also recognised within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
She told Newsday she started learning how to lay bricks in 2015.
â€œDue to lack of employment, I had to start working as a labourer and in 2015 I developed an interest in building,â€ she said.
â€œI would encourage all women to engage in this job because there is a scarcity of employment these days and we cannot afford to choose which job to go for.
“Working as a labourer involves a lot of manpower, but when you start working as a bricklayer it becomes easier,â€ she said.
According to LHDAâ€™s livelihood restoration officer, Khauhelo Heshepe, the initiative started in 2014 after their public consultations revealed such a gap.
â€œIn this livelihood programme, we have a section of skills and development where we look for people who possess different skills that they learned at the place of work,â€ Heshepe said.
â€œIn 2013 and 2014, we started a consultation campaign to the communities about the status quo where the villagers indicated that they have skills but lacked qualifications to get employment.
â€œWe worked on that process to ensure that they are tested and awarded with certificates that would help them acquire employment,â€ he added.
He said some of their graduates have already been hired at the ongoing Polihali projects. With their qualifications they can apply for any job that requires their expertise, he said.
Tumelo â€˜Mota from the technical and vocational department of the ministry of education explained that they tested 297 people in Mapholaneng on bricklaying and masonry.
They then tested 108 people in Molumong and 76 from Matubatube villages in the same field.
â€œThe tests are made in two forms; first is practical and theory and according to the kind of people were deal with, we conduct oral questions since some of them can neither read nor write. It becomes easy for them to explain themselves in Sesotho,â€ â€˜Mota said.
â€œThe challenge that we faced is that some cannot read and write so in that instance I had to use my teaching skills for one to understand,â€ he added.
According to â€˜Mota, there are four test categories; the first is the trade operatives, which is given to people who are beginning from scratch, especially at the community centres.
Trade C test is conducted for people who acquired skills from work, and Trade B and A tests are given to more advanced people.
The Principal Secretary (PS) of the ministry of natural resources, Lisema Lekhooana, who was also present at the graduation ceremony, said the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is going to bring in more money and infrastructure to Mokhotlong.
â€œThis is just the beginning under Polihali project, there are more opportunities like this coming to benefit the people of Mokhotlong,â€ Lekhooana said.
He added: â€œThere is the infrastructure that is going to be made for people who have been affected by the project and this project is going to bring more infrastructure and employment opportunities. It is your responsibility to take care of it,” he said.
The minister of education and training, Ntoi Rapapa, thanked LHDA for the initiative to assist the graduates, citing that it contributes to the countryâ€™s economic development.
â€œWe are here to witness this important ceremony where these receipts will stand a chance to compete in the industry with qualifications whenever the job vacancies avail,â€ Rapapa said.
â€œThis certificate is recognized in the Southern African Community Development (SADC) in which Lesotho is a member State,” he added.
â€œAll the graduates are people who did not study for this profession but practically learned how to work at the place of work.
â€œI would like to thank LHDA management and the ministry of education for this great initiative. Thank you for contributing to manpower development and as well as economic development. â€œTo you graduates, you have been the weapons, go and fight the struggles of life and work for your families as you contribute to the economy of this country,â€ he said.