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Equipping Lesotho’s teachers for rural primary schools

Our previous research project on Education systems, aspiration and learning in remote rural settingsfound that primary school children in rural communities in Lesotho, India and Laos tend to see their education as being useful only in relation to formal sector careers (teacher, nurse, policeman, soldier etc). Such careers can be achieved by only a minority of learners and, as a consequence, many young people are left disillusioned, and disengage from schooling.

In Lesotho, this is despite a new integrated curriculum that explicitly seeks to equip children with knowledge and skills for alternative futures. Part of the problem is that teachers in rural schools also see education as preparation for a formal sector career, and have not themselves fully embraced the integrated curriculum. Relatively few teachers have received any training in the new curriculum and it is not currently introduced in initial teacher education at Lesotho College of Education (LCE). Moreover, issues of teaching in specifically rural contexts, or the needs of rural children, have little prominence either in the new curriculum itself, or in teacher education.

This project seeks to equip Lesotho’s primary school teachers better for engaging rural children with education. It aims to produce a school experience that connects more meaningfully with rural children’s lives and prepares them for success in a future life that might not be in a formal sector job. Rural children will as a consequence engage more actively with schooling.

There are four strands to the approach:

Introduce preparation for rural teachers into the diploma in education primary at LCE

We are working with students in the term preceding their year-long teaching practice to teach them action research methods and design action research projects to undertake during their teaching practice. Supervised by nearby graduate teachers, the students will assess the needs of rural children, institute change in their schools and generate valuable knowledge that will feed into classroom-based teacher education and policy-focused and academic publications.

Introduce reflection on rural contexts to programmes for in-service teachers

LCE runs a Distance Teacher Education Programme for those teaching in primary schools without a qualification; the National University of Lesotho (NUL) runs a Bachelor of Education programme for teachers who have completed a Diploma in Education and wish to progress their careers. We will work with those who run these programmes to build in sessions that encourage the teachers to reflect on the challenges that rural settings pose to learners, to explore ways of making schooling more meaningful to rural children.

Develop in-service training workshops for rural teachers

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has historically been largely a responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), particularly the Inspectorate and National Curriculum Development Centre. There are plans that in future the Inspectorate should identify the need for CPD but this should be delivered by LCE and NUL. We will work with the MOET, LCE and NUL to design and trial workshops for those already teaching in rural schools. These might focus on outreach with communities as well as working with learners in school.

Ensure that government policy and frameworks for teacher education pay attention to the needs of children in rural contexts

A new Comprehensive Teacher Policy has been drafted which covers teacher education, and a new competency-based framework model for training teachers is under discussion. These documents are being produced with input from multiple stakeholders. We will bring together representatives of MOET, LCE and NUL to ensure that they give appropriate attention to the specific needs of rural children, to ensure that education is meaningful and valuable to children in more remote areas.

Research report, published March 2023:
Equipping Lesotho's primary school teachers for educating and motivating rural children

By Ansell N, Chere-Masopha J, Phamotse P, Sebatane E and Tsolele M

Executive summary

Previous research has identified that children in rural Lesotho see schooling as preparation for a future elsewhere in a professional career. The content of education seems abstract to them, unconnected with their experiences of rural life. Once they realise that they are unlikely to achieve the academic success necessary for a formal sector career, they see little purpose for continuing in education, and many drop out of school.

This report presents the findings of a collaborative project undertaken by a team from Lesotho College of Education (LCE), the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Brunel University London (BUL) with support from Lesotho’s Ministry of Education and Training – Basic Education. The purpose of the project was to identify ways to better prepare and support teachers in rural primary schools to make schooling more meaningful and engaging for rural children.

The team worked with 35 second year students on the Diploma in Education (Primary) at LCE to undertake action research projects during their teaching practice. The student teachers were supported during their placements by 11 graduates of NUL’s B.Ed. (Primary) programme who had been trained in action research and were employed at the host schools or schools nearby. The participants attended a two-day workshop that introduced them to the project and trained them in action research. Once in the field, they received visits from members of the research team who were discussed progress and resolved problems. Both student teachers and supervising teachers wrote reports on their experiences which were analysed by the research team.

Overall, the action research projects resulted in some innovative learner-centred teaching and development of teaching aids that are likely to have been effective in enabling learners to achieve intended learning outcomes. The student teachers and teacher supervisors were less clear about adapting teaching to the experiences and interests of rural children, and generally struggled with the applying concept of rurality in their practice. Rural contexts were seen as deficient – lacking resources (both at school and in the community), exposure (to different people, ideas and practices) and conservative in their perspectives. Most of the action research projects focused on finding ways to overcome these rural deficits. There was a widespread assumption that resources needed to be brought in from elsewhere, rather than seeking alternative resources found in the rural setting that might enable children to engage more meaningfully with the curriculum. Some of the student teachers were more imaginative and creative in finding ways to make their teaching more relatable to children growing up in rural contexts. Very few of the projects were concerned with finding ways to make schooling relevant to future rural lives. Enabling teachers to direct their attention to these area requires further attention.

Recommendations for the institutions of higher education, and for the Ministry of Education and Training and development partners are offered at the end of the report. 

Read the full report

Front cover of the report

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Nicola Ansell
Professor Nicola Ansell - Since I arrived at Brunel in 1999, my interests have focused on social and cultural change in the lives of young people in the Global South (particularly southern Africa). I have researched the impacts of AIDS on young people’s migration; how education sectors are adjusting to the needs of AIDS-affected young people; and the impacts of AIDS on young people’s current livelihoods and future food security. Recently, I have completed two research projects. The first examines the impacts of social cash transfers (for instance old age pensions and child grants) on generational relations in Malawi and Lesotho. The second investigates links between education and aspiration in remote rural areas of Lesotho, Laos and India. I have also authored a book on Children, youth and development (second edition published 2016) and launched an MA programme on Children, Youth and International Development.

Related Research Group(s)

Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park

Human Geography - Aims to develop and consolidate interdisciplinary research around space, place and society at Brunel. We provide a forum for engagement with geographical research, for sharing and receiving feedback on writing and developing new collaborations nationally and internationally.

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Project last modified 06/07/2023