MASERU, 27 August 2010 – A US$20million grant agreement for improving the quality of educational infrastructure and basic education in Lesotho was signed on August 25, signaling a big push by this tiny nation of 1.8 million people toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for Education by 2015.
The grant is financed by the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) through its Catalytic Trust Fund, and will be pooled with an additional grant of US$6 million from the Government of Ireland, represented by H.E. Gerry Gervin, Ambassador of Ireland to Lesotho.
“The Government of Lesotho is committed to teaching our children the skills they need for building a better life for themselves, their families, and their country,” said H.E. Timothy T. Thahane, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Lesotho. “This agreement will help ensure that more Basotho children have access to quality education that they deserve.”
Lesotho has made significant strides in the education sector. The education MDGs are within reach, primary education is free and compulsory, and there are almost equal numbers of boys and girls attending primary school. Yet, this landlocked nation faces several challenges in imparting quality basic education, with less than half of primary school classrooms meeting standards, high repetition rates with kids repeating primary education especially in the first years, and only half of the children enrolled in basic education doing so at the target age of six years.
“This project reflects the growing confidence of the donor community in Lesotho’s ability to meet and deliver the education MDG targets on time,” said H.E. Dr. Mamphono Khaketla, Lesotho’s Minister of Education and Training. “Once implemented, the project will be a benchmark for other line-ministries and we hope other countries within the region.”
The project is expected to run for three years, and will support the construction and refurbishment of over 300 classrooms, appropriately designed to accommodate disabled children, provide gender-friendly latrines and support the operation of more than 100 reception classes. These activities will be matched with a supporting set of interventions to improve the overall quality of teaching and learning in Lesotho.
“Education is fundamentally important for economic growth and improving human welfare,” said Ruth Kagia, World Bank Country Director for Lesotho. “As Lesotho prepares for the future, increasing investment in basic education is a proven strategy for improving economic and social prospects for all Basotho people.”
The grant marks the first pooled fund for improving education in Lesotho, and will be managed by the World Bank on behalf of the donors, including the Government of Ireland.
Bob Prouty, Head of the EFA-FTI Secretariat, commented about the progress being made in Lesotho while acknowledging the remaining challenges in the education sector. “Lesotho is trying to achieve education for all children, including the more vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities and girls. I also commend the program for attracting qualified teachers where they are most needed which is a key step in getting all children educated”, he added.
The implementing agency is the Ministry of Education and Training. This multi-donor approach adopted for Lesotho’s education sector is a step forward, in line with the Paris Declaration on donor harmonization.
“By improving the quality of primary school infrastructure and teaching and supporting pre-primary education, the project will deliver development dividends both now and well into the future,” said Cristina Santos, the World Bank’s Senior Education Specialist and Project Leader. “We look forward to speedy implementation of this vital project for optimum development impact.”
About the Education for All — Fast Track Initiative (EFA FTI):
The EFA-FTI is a global partnership of donor and developing countries, as well as multilateral institutions and civil society organizations, established in 2002 to ensure that all children receive quality basic education. It currently endorses the education sector plans of 42 low-income countries around the world, and has provided over US$ 2 billion in financial support.