26 May 2016

Lesotho Improves Quality of Education and Student Retention

press release

World Bank Group approves $25 million for education

The Government of Lesotho's efforts to deliver better quality education and stop its children from dropping out of school got a lift today. This follows the World Bank Group's Board approval of US $25 million for a project that will help the Mountain Kingdom support its teachers and improve the learning environment in rural and hard to reach mountainous regions where most of the poor live.

The Education Quality for Equality Project will target 300 of the poorest-performing primary schools and 65 junior secondary schools in rural areas. In total, 84,500 students are expected to benefit from the project, which will last for five years to 2021. This project is in line with the World Bank Group's strategic goals of supporting the most vulnerable and poor by eliminating extreme poverty and boosting the incomes of the poor.

"We welcome the World Bank funding for our project. It will go a long way towards helping us achieve our goals to lift Basotho out of poverty by creating a literate youth population who have a firm foundation in numeracy and reasoning skills, especially in our rural areas where we have seen a consistent trend of student dropouts," said Minister of Education and Training, Dr. Mahali Phamotse.

The objective of this new project is to improve basic education service delivery and student retention in targeted schools. Basotho students' level of learning in primary school is the third lowest in the southern African region.

The quality is equally low at the junior secondary level where only one-fifth of students pass Mathematics and Science in the end-cycle examination. In addition, only about 62 percent of the cohort that enters Grade 1 completes primary and 42 percent completes junior secondary school, respectively. This is despite high public spending in education.

"Raising the quality of basic education is crucial to giving the Basotho youth a strong foundation for further skills development and improving their ability to participate more productively in the economy" said World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, Guang Zhe Chen. "With this project we will also help the Lesotho education system to groom, support and manage its teachers which is critical to raising the quality of education".

The project will be based on three complimentary components: first, improving the teaching and learning environment; second, strengthening accountability for student learning and retention; and the last strengthening institutional capacity.

One of the innovative approaches brought in this new project is the empowerment of key actors at the school level, including school principals, teachers, school boards and local communities. A new model for teaching mathematics and science will also be piloted in some junior secondary schools.

* The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $19 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.

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