While primary education in Lesotho is free, high school tuition and related costs are a challenge for most families on Qholaqhoe Mountain. Many cannot afford the yearly expense and often find themselves dependent upon their children for much of the necessary daily work required to survive.
However, education is highly valued and respected. An education is considered a luxury that families struggle to provide for their children. The promise of an education offers the promise of a way out of a life of subsistence farming and herding.
The Qholaqhoe Mountain area consists of many small, far flung villages. Many of the students walk miles, and hours, to school each day. A few students stay for the school week in small stone buildings near the school. School is released early on Fridays so they can make the long trek home for the weekend to help with family chores.
The purpose of our Qholaqhoe High School program is to provide scholarship assistance to hard working students who have no financial support, so that they can attend school and graduate with a high school diploma.
Sponsors pay $250 per year, which covers tuition and testing fees. We currently have 63 scholarship students, in Forms A (8th grade) through Form E. Sponsors and students get to know each other through the sharing of letters and photographs four times a school year. Many sponsors stay with their student throughout the entire high school experience.
There is an expectation that the students work hard at all of their courses and do well on their exams. If a child does not attend school regularly, and the teachers feel that she/he is not doing their best work, they are placed on probation. If their performance does not improve, they may be removed from the scholarship program. A new student is then chosen for the sponsor.
An important piece of a sponsorship is that the students realize that someone, thousands of miles across the ocean, is encouraging them to receive an education. This caring and support provides the type of hope these students, and their families, desperately need.
The scholarships have provided relief to parents who struggle to give their children the opportunity of an education, and they are justifiably very proud to have had their children selected for the program. Parents or guardians attend school meetings and are encouraged to allow their child extra time for studying and coming to school on Saturdays for extra help.
Life is not easy at the high school. Students often struggle with their studies, impacted by teacher strikes, difficulties at home, drought and the lack of adequate nutrition. However, the ability to stay in school, to know that they have the support of their sponsors and to have the chance to graduate has proven to be a significant motivation.