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Education and training for national development : the case of Lesotho Mohapi, Mamolete Delina

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine Lesotho's post-secondary educational reform policies and practices so as to understand the issues involved, to assess them in relation to those in other developing countries, and to make implications. The data were official documents and records and interviews with 28 senior officials in government, educational institutions and other organisations. An analysis of the findings in terms of Brown's (1999) framework on the political economy of high skills was complemented by a further examination of major factors which did not fit well into the Brown framework. The Kingdom of Lesotho (formerly Basutoland) is an enclave within the Republic of South Africa. Independent since 1966, it is relatively poor, having limited natural resources, no significant manufacturing capability and only two major exports, water and labour. In spite of the promulgation since 1970 of a series of national development plans, it seems that political unrest has acted as a brake on economic progress. A series of education reform policies aimed for universal primary education, large-scale development of secondary education, new institutions for post secondary education and training, and expansion of the National University. Overall growth in education has been greater than the rate of population growth. However, most of it has been in primary and secondary education and at the national university. In other sectors growth is less. There are also claims that enrolment increases have not been matched by gains in quality and that facilities development has been poor. In spite of declared policy intents to accelerate economic growth through education, there continues to be a lack of employment for graduates. Interview data showed respondents' concerns about the difficulty of developing post-secondary education and training in Lesotho's unfavourable economic circumstances, about the adverse effects of necessary foreign aid, and about the absence of planning and co-ordination. It is clear great strides have been made in Lesotho education. The government has a commitment to the development of a skilled workforce and is providing support to the best of its ability, in spite of scarce resources. It is also clear, however, that there is a gap between what has been promised with respect to post-secondary education and training and what has been delivered. This gap has many elements, some international, some national and some institutional. Analysis leads to three conclusions. (1) Lesotho is not alone in facing the issues resulting from a poor resource base: its circumstances are comparable to those of other developing countries trying to ensure development and needing help from international agencies. (2) Lesotho's national development plans use the language of human capital theory. Development in a country like Lesotho, however, poses different challenges from those in developed countries, and in adopting the rhetoric of human capital theory, the government may have unintentionally set false expectations for what could be achieved. (3) Skill development may need to be differently conceived if Lesotho's development is to progress. Rethinking skill development may require an appraisal of a number of issues fundamental to Lesotho institutions, traditions, and society. The thesis concludes with a number of implications to policy makers and researchers.

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