School children at Seboka Primary School in Lithabaneng often resort to using the nearby bush to relieve themselves due to the dilapidated ablution facilities at their school.
But thanks to an Action Ireland Trust (AIT) led sanitation project, this will soon be a story of the past. AIT is now building new modern toilet facilities at the school.
Seboka Primary is one of the five schools in the Lithabaneng area that will benefit from the project in which AIT is partnering with the Education and Training Ministry and non-governmental organisation Rise International. The project is also meant to create a conducive learning environment in schools.
AIT is an Irish charity organisation which provides skills exchange programmes in various sectors including education. It strives to engage and empower communities to improve lives, enhance health and education, end hunger and overcome adverse effects of poverty.
Dubbed the 5 Hub Schools -- Action Ireland Trust Project, the five-year initiative is aimed at ensuring that schools are safe and have adequate sanitation for all children to aid their learning process.
The beginning of the project was marked by a sod-turning event officiated by Education minister Ntlhoi Motsamai.
The project will also enhance access to information communication technology (ICT) while eradicating corporal punishment. It expects to achieve its objectives by building infrastructure like toilets with running water, school kitchens, mobile handwashing stations, water harvesting facilities and vegetable gardens.
More than 100 teachers from the beneficiary schools have already been trained on the child friendly school initiative and alternatives to corporal punishment.
The beneficiaries are primary schools Seboka, Makoanyane, Leqele and Lithabaneng as well as Lithabaneng High School.
Speaking during the sod-ceremony, Ms Motsamai said the project will advance the government's efforts towards meeting the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), which it is struggling to meet.
SDG4 is about ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
"The investment by AIT in Lesotho's education is significant and crucial towards the achievement of SDG4, and for this we are grateful," Ms Motsamai said.
She said AIT has partnered with the ministry for over a decade in projects that include the construction and refurbishment of classrooms, laboratories, toilets and staffrooms in some schools.
Minister Motsamai said the project would also contribute in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
"In this era, when Covid-19 is on the rampage, this gesture is very significant as the washing of hands and general cleanliness is paramount in keeping ourselves safe from Covid-19 infections."
On his part, Fran Whelan, AIT chief executive officer (CEO) said they were proud of their contribution to Lesotho's education sector.
"We are so pleased that we have progressed in our involvement in Lesotho's education sector where we have been present since 2011 running school building projects, mentoring of teachers and classroom assistance.
"The new child friendly schools project is community-based and will inspire the communities through their schools and also nurture hope and enterprise for the future," Mr Whelan said.
'Mapakalitha Mafaesa, the principal of Seboka Primary, said the project will restore the school children's dignity. She said she was worried about her learners' reliance on the nearby forest for toilets.
"The project came at an opportune time when the said schools are in dire need for toilets. In our case, our learners have been rescued and their dignity has been restored.
"The dilapidated pit latrine toilets that were shared by teachers and learners were built decades ago and are now in a sorry state," Ms Mafaesa said.
She said the boreholes that will be drilled at the school would also significantly reduce the school's water costs.
Rise International director Daniella Gusman, said they were happy to be part of the project as it aligns with some of their core values of community driven development and social enterprise.
"Through participatory design workshops, we facilitated and encouraged the engagement of the community in the planning and designing of the project, promoting school- community partnerships," Ms Gusman said.