High School Library Becoming Community Educational Center
In one of Africa’s poorest nations, the St. Lawrence High School has ambitious plans for its rural, mountainous community of ha Ntlama in the Berea District of Lesotho. It wants to take a new high school library and transform it into an educational center that benefits the entire community, especially those left behind. And it needs your help.
Recently, we told you about the Mink’a Talent Exchange, which was started by the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance (KFLA) in the fall of 2016. Our first Mink’a collaboration in Chiapas set the bar high by teaching Photovoice methodology to empower a wide range of constituents in Southern Mexico. Mink’a is based in the Quechuan tradition and represents the collective work done for and by the community. It’s a way to offer talent and share knowledge among Fellows.
This new opportunity in Africa may be an ideal chance for you to get involved in Mink’a and share your talent. There are two different ways to help. First off, Fellows can immediately support the library by donating children and youth books, as well as agricultural learning materials. You can mail them to KFLA and we will route them to the school. Also — in summer 2018 — there is a Mink’a Talent Exchange opportunity for Fellows to travel and work with a locally based Fellow at the school.
But First, a Little Background
Dr. Mary Hlalele (KILP-01) of the SELIBENG sa thuto Centre grew up in Lesotho and has been working with this community since 1997.
She has arranged for Operation Crossroads Africa (OCA) volunteers to assist the ha Ntlama community since 2002, with a brief hiatus during 2009–2016.
OCA — which President John F. Kennedy called “the progenitor to the Peace Corps” — has sent university students from across the United States to this area. The volunteers have done everything from leading HIV/AIDS workshops to helping at local health clinics to teaching English and Mathematics at the high school.
A new library has been recently created at the high school with books, magazines and educational materials donated by KFLA, BookSmart (Durban) the Grail (Johannesburg), OCA and Mary’s friends and family members. The library welcomes additional materials, and this is an easy way for Kellogg Fellows to get involved and support the community.
“This new project is really about benefiting the community on a broader sense,” explains Mary. “We want to broaden the impact of this library beyond the school into the district. We want to set up the library, so that it becomes a valuable asset to the entire community, ensuring that even parents feel comfortable using it.”
Many Lesotho farmers, for instance, are dealing with soil erosion and lack of water. Eighty-seven percent of the nation’s total land area is comprised of rugged foothills and mountains suitable largely for livestock production rather than crop farming.
“We want there to be a connection between these farmers and agriculture teachers, in this way ensuring that people can come together to share knowledge,” says Mary. “The library has books that can help farmers deal with these challenges. The teachers, the children and the parents are very eager to come together to work around what they need for their community.”
The goal is to elevate the entire area’s prosperity.
As parents see their kids benefit from education, they are more interested in learning themselves, explains Mary. “They see the value of their children’s education,” she says. “We are considering new adult education classes, because the adults are thinking to themselves, ‘maybe we should finish high school too.”’
School Transitioning to New System
The St. Lawrence High School is one of the nation’s first to pilot a new educational curriculum, which is being introduced incrementally. The old system was based on the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate “O” Level.
But the new system — the Lesotho Government Certificate of Secondary Education — is similar to the grade system used in the United States. The high school offers grades 8–12. After the 11th grade, students are either directed toward vocational or technical schools, or they proceed to Grade 12 to pursue academic careers.
“The teachers are being asked to transition over to an entirely new educational system,” explains Mary. “They need help in dealing with the transition and learning new methodologies. We want to advance these teachers to make it easier and more effective for them to do their jobs.”
The Call to Action — Now and Later
You can help this Mink’a Talent Exchange in two ways. An easy way to immediately help the school and community is to donate children and youth books to KFLA, so we can ensure they reach the high school library. The school also welcomes agricultural learning materials for the community adults.
There’s also another opportunity in summer 2018. KFLA Fellows (and others in their networks), who may be interested in spending six weeks in Lesotho to work on this initiative, are welcome to register their interest.
Kellogg Fellows with an interest in teaching math, science, agriculture and numerous other subjects are invited. These Fellows will work closely with the educators at the high school on “train the trainer” workshops to prepare the St Lawrence educators for the ambitious plans they have for their school curriculum and the entire community.
The Mink’a exchange will be organized in collaboration with the OCA volunteers scheduled to return in the summer of 2018. KFLA has travel grants available to qualified Kellogg Fellows participating in Mink’a exchanges.
“We look forward to continue working with OCA, especially in collaboration with KFLA,” says Mary.
Benefits of KFLA and Mink’a
Mary is eager to introduce the benefits of the Mink’a Talent Exchange to ha Ntlama. “Through the years, the Kellogg Fellowship has been a huge influence on my career,” she adds. “In my three years on the program, we had Fellows from southern Africa, Latin America and the United States. They came from different sectors, like health, education, development, agriculture and social entrepreneurship. This broadened my thinking and made me always consider other sectors, cultures and perspectives in my own work.”
She believes Mink’a has great potential for this community.
“Two people, two Fellows, coming from two different worlds can accomplish a lot,” says Mary. “Outsiders bring a fresh perspective, and local Fellows bring a deep understanding of the community. Mink’a can reconnect us among ourselves to help people. Those of us who benefited from the fellowships can bring the whole essence of the program back to life again. Together, we can help change our communities, influence government policies and improve lives.”
If you are interested in learning more about this Mink’a opportunity, contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Mink’a and see how you can benefit as a Mink’a volunteer or Mink’a recipient with cultural offerings, intellectual contributions, social networking, spiritual support or vocational gifts.