Lesotho’s Unemployment Crisis; Could there be a silver lining?

By Leoma Monaheng - First appeared on The Nation

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Three unwelcome men barged into my grandmother’s home this week, they asked her for money, she offered them all she had at the time, what they claimed was mere peanuts, before she could say anything else, these young villainous men proceeded to gag her, plug in her electric iron and used her skin as an ironing board all the while yelling, “Where is the money gogo!” I wish that this was just a mere fictional tale, but as a social commentator I don’t have the right to works of fiction as am constrained to hard facts and true day to day stories.

What could lead these men to commit such a heinous act of brutality, especially when that very act is aimed at the most vulnerable in society, the elderly…? Too many factors could possibly be blamed for these men’s behaviour, drug abuse stemming from peer pressure, poor upbringing…, but for the sake of this article, we shall discuss only one, the dreaded high unemployment rate in our country, that has led to the crippling statistics of poverty in this, our beautiful country.

To understand how unemployment factors into the bigger picture, that is Lesotho’s economy, we need to have a thorough understanding of our economic climate and the culture of dependency that has led our mountain kingdom to such a terrible state it is in currently. Lesotho is country of 2.2 million people, with its largest exports including textile materials, water and diamonds.

Lindsay Boyce of the “Water Project” (2007) claims that the biggest problem with Lesotho unlike other African countries, is not the lack of minerals or resources like water, but the necessary knowledge and technology needed to distribute such to a wider population, hence benefiting most Basotho. These issues lead to a situation of inequality, which according to some statistics is one of the highest in the world.

Therefore, what we see in our country continuously is an unequal distribution of wealth where the very few rich get richer, while the enormous population that is poor, only get poorer. In a speech he made in 2006, the great Mr Kali “K.C” Thaanyane warned that if nothing was done to equip the youth of the country with the necessary skills and knowledge needed for them to sustain their livelihoods, there would rise a ruthless breed of money hungry youngsters whose sole aim is to meet their ends (money) by any means…, dear reader, the man was right!

What he also said was that the old educational system used pre 1966 was the Bantu educational system which was used to instill a sense of servitude to the Mosotho learner and thus contributed to a loss of self-respect and esteem, finally distorting the said individuals view of business and enterprise., (heavily influenced by the west) leaning towards a culture of individualism and finally self-destruction…Nothing has been done thus far to greatly change this method of learning.

What we are then left with is a huge chunk of the population which is drawn towards the glitz and glamour of western lifestyles but because of the high inequality rate, do not have access to resources that can make their dreams come true.., what then ensues is pure chaos as those without, grab all they can from those they believe have resources in excess.

So what could possibly be the solution to poverty, the high crime rate, especially theft…? Getting a job right…? Well maybe, unfortunately the International Labour Organization does not paint a pretty picture for us in this regard…, for one, apparently, according to them, of the 7500 pupils that graduate from tertiary institutions yearly, only half of these are able to obtain a salaried wage, even then, most are employed in subsistence farming and thus earn meager wages.

What does this mean for the rest of us if our country’s brightest are struggling to find a job..!? Doom! You say? I beg to differ, for one thing, hope is always present and is as vast as there stars in the night sky, and one can always find a glimmer of it despite how dark your circumstances maybe. Many of us may not have access to the many resources and assets that our country has to offer but.., rest assured, there is always  we can do.

I have personally seen the remarkable with my eyes in the streets of Maseru, I have witnessed children sell water, Lesotho’s most abundant natural asset and still churn out a hefty profit. I have seen men with no limbs sing their hearts out and win over the hearts, and pockets of Basotho, making their misfortunes a selling point. So I beg to ask the question, are we really as poor and as destitute as we believe we are?

While I may not be informed enough to comment on our abilities to turn around our situation, I firmly believe that there are some patterns of behaviour and thinking that we must as a nation turn away from, the first being the entitlement way of thinking.

It is a warped sense of “entitlement” that led those three robbers to brutalize my grandmother for her hard earned money, it is this very same sense of entitlement that causes us as the public to endure horrendous treatment from service providers all across the country, it is this very same “sense of entitlement” that disproves when our struggling graduates decide to sell their and goods on the street to make a living.

To counteract such ridiculous notions of entitlement, it is thus necessary for us to turn a corner and our development as country, in order to do this, each one of us has to take stock of whatever we can use for others benefit, as a gift to the world, it is time for us to take stock of our special skills, resources and or learned knowledge and apply these to the best of our abilities. We must first ask ourselves what can I offer to the world, and secondly, how can this gift make me a living. I believe that given the chance, we can all change the world in our own profound way.

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