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‘Poverty at 85%’


Mohloai Mpesi

A giant diamond mining company, Storm Mountain Diamond’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohale Ralikariki has promised to surmount the prevailing youth unemployment in the country. 

Ralikariki said this during the graduation ceremony of the refurbished skills training institution, Ntlafatso Skills Training Centre based in Mohales’ Hoek.   

He said the unending disease of poverty and unemployment would only be defeated when the private sector join forces with the government to create opportunities for the youths to cut-down the prevalence of joblessness.  

He said his company breathed life in the desolate basic skills training institution which was inhabitable and dilapidated. The school produced 54 graduates; 36 males and 18 females who were studying in the departments of Brick-laying and Plastering, Carpentry, Plumbing, Cooking and Catering, Sewing, Motor Mechanics, Panel-Beating and Spray Painting and Business Skills and Computer Business.

“The first day when I came here it was inhabitable, full of bushes and looked like deserted buildings, but today it’s a building full of life,” he said.

He said the process of helping the school to stand on its feet is a mirror of the Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s words that eagerness of private sectors’ teamwork with the government to overthrow the reigning poverty exacerbated by unemployment. 

“This is a true example of what the Prime Minister has always talked about when he said there is a need for collaboration and partnership between the government and private sector where we (private sector) extend a helping hand to ensure that we fight the issue of unemployment working with the government.

“We have about 100 students in Kao who are already registered and will take part in the programs that this institution offers. Our intentions as Storm Mountain Diamonds is that at least each student under our program should have two or three qualifications,” he said.

He continued that they are planning to help the graduates to carry on with their studies until they attain two or three different qualifications. His company is also deliberating on issuing scholarships to universities outside the country.

On the same note, Ralikariki indicated that they are also considering empowering youths by releasing an expression of interest to companies, those interested would be lobbied to sell a part of their shares to the youths so that they become owners.      

“These students who are graduating today will come back again; one who studied plumbing will return to do a different course et al. We have set a target to complete all these in two years.

“In this expedition of fighting poverty and unemployment, we have set out a target which is currently incomplete. We are going to release an expression of interest where by all companies do proposals; constructions, catering and others then they should tell us how they wish to tackle youth empowerment. We want these students to not only be students but to also become owners of the companies and we will ensure that we buy them those shares.

“This is a long term journey which needs patience and also discipline, you can set your targets and achieve them. We have just established a company in Kao that specializes on domestic liquids and others. We consulted experts to training people in Kao to produce such products.

“We are on a campaign to do educational draft where we will start to give scholarship to the qualifying youth. We have vocational project and degree program where we will be taking students to universities outside the country.

“We also have adult education for adults who are working at Kao Storm Mountain mine but did not go to school. We have partnered with Lesotho Business Teaching Centre to give adult education training; we have already earmarked the place to establish the training.

Meanwhile, a study made by Aaron O’Neil which was published in July 6, 2021 titled Unemployment rate in Lesotho 2020 indicates that Lesotho scored 24.65% last year.

The study continues that the numbers accrued from the previous year’s statistics which was 23.86% then. In 2018 the rates counted to 23.98. The statistics recovered from the worst 2008’s poverty where the unemployment rate ballooned to 27.67%.

The Manager of the school, Makhele Lekhoro recalled the struggles that the institution went through in its coming up. He said one of the main challenges was financial constraints whereby they found themselves penniless to carry on with the programs in 2018 which propelled them to shut the school without an option.  

“We had financial crises in 2018 after planning our budget and thereafter realised that it was insufficient to cover all our plans, we were forced to close the school in September on the same year,” he said.

He continued that, “We went to Ntate Ralikariki to help us. Many things were supposed to happen; we sat down to plan on how to overcome such problems. He was compassionate to give us that assistance with revamping the hostels and to make the place habitable,” he narrated.

“He bought the brick-laying equipment, cooking and catering and plumbing. In 2020 February after reopening the school, Covid-19 pandemic forced us to close the school again. In June this year we came to classes but unfortunately after a month we were again forced to close the school for the same reasons,” he said.

“In August 16, 2021 we returned to classes and we are satisfied with their results, we are confident that they will do the job,” he said.

He said the main mandate for opening the school was to equip people with basic skills which would help them earn a living and also to reduce the level of unemployment and starvation in the country.

“The term takes three months or twelve weeks. We are dealing on competence based modular training. When we see that a student is excelling on a certain skill we include it in their certificate, but if they fail to pass many tests we will not include that course on their certificate,” he explained.

“We have a vision to have our curriculum including mining courses to work at the local mines,” he continued.

The Catering Instructor at the institution, ‘Mapitso Sekake told the graduates to work hard and apply the skills they earned into practice. She said they have to prove themselves worthy for the jobs.
“Go to work and volunteer so that you can prove yourselves about what you have learnt. Many times we think money can motivate us and that’s not true, when you know the job, you get confidence, you get brave and share ideas with other people because you know your job,” she said.

“We have Community Education for decentralization of services; call us because many children want to enroll to this school but we take a very little number.

“About 85% of people are living in poverty in Lesotho; this has to be taken to consideration in order to give Basotho basic education in an effort to reduce poverty and crime that is exacerbated by starvation and illiteracy,” she said.

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