Rural Self-help Development Association (RSDA) did not watch helplessly as Basotho suffer owing to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. RSDA director ’Mampho Thulo says they approached their friends in Denmark so that they could also extend a helping hand to the vulnerable children hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. And their focus was on five districts in the country where they were able to identify the badly affected pupils with the help of their teachers.
In each district, Thulo says, they were able to identify five primary schools where 60 pupils will be assisted from each school. She says their target is to assist a total 300 pupils across the country from the schools they have identified. But there remain a huge concern about the number of children still in dire situations across the country.Thulo says they were able to give the identified pupils some food parcels that include fortified 5kg NUA 45 beans which have been produced by local farmers.Also in the food parcels were a 12,5kg mealie meal, trays of locally produced eggs and some packets of seeds.
Thulo says they chose the NUA 45 beans because they are rich in zinc and other essential minerals.When the RSDA visits the schools, the beans are cooked so that those present could have a taste. Thulo says going to the schools was also a way of promoting the local produce so that it could be known to the consumers out there in the market. What also drove the RSDA to rope in the local farmers was the former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s narrative that the government would buy local farmers’ produce to assist the nation during this difficult time.
“So we were trying to kill two birds with one stone,” Thulo says. RSDA is working with schools in the districts of Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Berea and Leribe. RSDA’s mission is to eradicate extreme hunger and improve the lives of rural Basotho by supporting sustainable agriculture, facilitating self-help and enabling rural communities to become sustainable. It is the 25th year that the association is working with the smallholder farmers to help them produce throughout the year.
Thulo says the COVID-19 pandemic and crises have led to increasing attention and clamour to redouble efforts towards food provision. The principal of Phoqoane Primary School in Mafeteng district, Rapelang Mokhele, says the food parcels have made a big contribution to his school. He says his learners were badly affected by the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Phoqoane Primary School has an enrolment of 295 pupils.Mokhele said most of the learners are from economically challenged backgrounds which have been worsened by the pandemic. “They are from families headed by the elderly people and some are orphans,” he says. Because of rife poverty from these families, those in Grade 7 have a faint hope that they will further their studies to the next level.
Their dreams are shattered at an early stage making it difficult to dream big, he says. Mokhele says lack of food makes it difficult for pupils to perform well in their studies because they are unable to concentrate on their studies.Evodia Phako of Shalane Primary School from Quthing says her school is struggling to survive because of the grinding poverty in the area.