Mentorship is a very important tool for imparting knowledge and empowering young professionals.
This week we speak to a mentoring powerhouse whose passion for Lesotho and its young people is exemplary.
In this interview, theReporter Kefiloe Kajane (KK) speaks with Advocate Mothepa Ndumo (MN) about her life, career, and the importance of mentoring young people.
KK: Tell us about yourself, who is Mothepa Ndumo and where did it all start?
MN: I am a 44-year-old lover of God, a lover of the life that he has gifted me with, and a voracious lover of the written word.
It all started with my lifelong love affair with books at a public library in the Eastern Cape town of Butterworth, where I grew up. I fell in love with that musty smell of books and I was hooked forever.
Because I am a lifelong learning fanatic, I am always out there challenging myself, acquiring new and useful information, and having an understanding of a wide array of topics across the macro-economic spectrum.
This is essential to leading an interesting life, asking the right questions, and holding your own regardless of context.
I do not appreciate being boxed according to the labels that society has seen fit to designate to me.
Yes, I am a legal academic, yes I am an Industrial Sociologist, yes I am a board-certified executive and leadership coach, but those labels do not contain all of me and my interests and I do not derive intrinsic human worth from them either.
This is important to emphasise in a society, which deifies so-called ‘barutehi’.
I always say, if ‘barutehi’ were the be-all and end-all, why is this country, or any other country, in tatters? We should be skeptical of any claims to inherent superiority academic knowledge seems to have.
Academic knowledge is only useful if applied to real-life scenarios. It is only useful if we deftly use it to solve the wicked problems in our society. Otherwise, it is an ego trip, and I would rather not buy a ticket. Please, leave me at the station. I gladly pass.
KK: You mentor many young people, tell us about your organisation Higher Self Career and Executive Coaching?
MN: Higher Self Career and Executive Coaching is a labour of love. This is my passion project.
When my academic qualifications outlived their usefulness during my South African sojourn, I realised, on a personal level, that there are plenty of shortcomings from a holistic development point of view.
The entire education system requires revisiting, reimagining, and reordering. What it is currently is a sausage factory, a Fordism era relic of an assembly line that produces people whose many other faculties have been neglected: creativity, critical thinking, thinking outside the box, testing the outer limits of human knowledge, asking productive questions, so-called soft skills, and so many other shortcomings.
Furthermore, where do our stories and inventions and genuine contributions to recorded human knowledge as Basotho, as Africans, feature?
Why should I go to Harvard to visit their Africana collection to learn about my story as a Mosotho, as an African?
Come on, some of these things really blow my mind. Higher Self is an initiative that seeks to guide human beings (and that includes young people) in self-exploration and to see themselves as the purposeful, multidimensional, multitalented, and gifted human beings that God created them to be.
Many of our problems in society emanate from the fact that many people are part of the walking dead, purposeless, directionless, and not in tune with their gifts and talents.
Through proven coaching and mentorship tools, psychometric assessments and sustained coaching interventions, Higher Self is able to work with people and organisations that are serious about transformation. Transformation is not a tick-box exercise or overnight thing; it requires a serious investment in resources and time.
KK: What does investing your time in young people mean to you?
MN: It is a pleasure and privilege which I do not take for granted. Young people keep me young, interested, engaged, and challenged. There are a lot of things that need serious intervention: lack of work ethic, the blame culture, self-victimisation, obsession with material things and fake Instagram lifestyles and this alarming need to make money and to make all of it now.
I invest my time and resources in young people because they have one gift that some of us do not have: time.
They have time to turn cultures, mind-sets and contexts around. That for me is energizing.
KK: Please tell us about your journey being an advocate, a lecturer and also mentoring young people?
MN: Law was not my first choice. In fact, when I “chose” Law, I didn’t even know what it was!
But, because I come from the background that I come from, I quickly adapted and applied myself, although, unbeknown to me at the time, I was suffering from depression and did not even know it. It was not the best schooling experience because of that and other debilitating factors but I was none the wiser.
Ignorance is such a tragic thing, but that experience taught me to dig deep within myself. It helped me become resilient and it helped me become self-reliant but it also left many wounds and scars that needed healing many decades later.
I, however, made the most of those lemons of my student experience and the lemonade was being recruited to become an assistant lecturer in the faculty of law at the National University of Lesotho. I am from the old school of a four-year BA Law and a two-year LLB.
I then went on study leave and acquired a Master of Laws specialising in Labour Law from the University of Cape Town and before that, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Conciliation and Arbitration. I was not terribly passionate about my career, but I loved the students to bits and pieces and enjoyed their office meaning-making visits.
Many of them were in the same boat, they did not choose law. Law chose them, and they did not have a post-LLB plan that energised them.
I always wanted to help and would form thinking partnerships with some of them on how their situations could possibly be salvaged. I suppose human potential excites me!
I have come full circle in my, to date, 18-year career. I have acquired various skills which I would ordinarily have not acquired had I not branched off and embarked on a career change 10 years after I started my academic career.
I left the employ of the NUL after 10 solid years because I was really questioning why I was continuing on this path and what else was out there.
I lived outside the country for eight years in various places and acquired a second Master’s degree in Industrial Sociology and deepened my insights into workplace dynamics and that led me to professional coaching and all the certifications and accreditations in coaching and psychometrics I have since acquired.
Professional coaching is a field that is only close to 40 years old. There is an entire career path, accreditations, industry bodies and life-long learning opportunities constituting the professional coaching universe.
There are also plenty of charlatans who have not been accredited or certified by anyone … people who literally wake up overnight and call themselves coaches because there is no regulation of the sector here in Lesotho.
I currently run two leadership development programs for the youth, one is for recent graduates and is called the High Potentials Leadership Development Programme and the other one is called the Masters in the Making Leadership Development Programme.
We are on cohort two of the High Potentials and cohort one of the masters in the making.
I work with students and graduates from NUL, Botho University, Limkokwing and Lerotholi Polytechnic mainly and there are many learning curves.
Otherwise, I am back lecturing at NUL and continue to engage with this country’s future leaders and other young people from the rest of Africa.
It is a privilege and deeply humbling and challenging. I have to exercise a lot of patience because there are certain things that do not make sense to me e.g. this obsession with quick riches but from a neuroscience perspective it does make sense because these are young brains that have to be trained to delay gratification and so on.
KK: What is your vision for young Basotho of this country as a mentor?
MN: I just want Basotho youths to gain self-confidence (but watch that fine line between being confident and being arrogant) and to understand that the size of the country, geographically, and the size of the population, do not define them and their potential.
Basotho youths need to get to a place where they can delay gratification, develop a strong work ethic, and hunker down and gain depth in whatever they are doing.
They must forego the quick cash, quick tender mentality and spend way less time on Instagram talking nonsense. What you spend most of your time and energies on, you become. We do not have the luxury of entertaining banal conversations online and embarrassing ourselves. Time is of the essence.
KK: In the past weeks we have seen young Basotho queuing for jobs. As a person who works with young people what can you say could be a solution to unemployment in this country?
MN: We need to throw orthodox approaches out the window and look into innovations such as regulated job sharing but we also need to understand that these are deeper, longstanding macro-economic issues that require a reframing of economic policy and priorities.
We have had Vision 2020 (pitiful gains if you ask me) and we now have, amongst other policies and initiatives, the National Development Strategic Plans (NSDPS). They all read beautifully but when is all that going to translate into tangible gains for all of us?
We need stable, competent, meritocratic governance for starters.
We need to be proactive and design a youth employment policy that speaks to 4IR realities such as they are in our country and we need to restructure the entire education system so that there is articulation across all levels.
We need to produce industry-ready graduates to go some way in solving the unemployment problem.
We also need to decouple access to employment opportunities from political affiliation. That whole edifice makes me physiologically sick. I honestly wish that it can be dismantled! It does not serve Basotho.
We need more resources for initiatives such as the one run by Higher Self and others in the ecosystem so that we can reach every single Mosotho youth.
We need a partnership between the private sector, civil society, and government to create far more paying internship placement opportunities for the youths. There is a lot that can be done. But it is the partisan politics that will do us in.
KK: What does the future of Higher Self Career and Executive Coaching look like?
What do you hope it achieves for you and the participants?
MN: Growth, influence, and impact for the greater good. These young people must go out there and be unleashed onto the world stages as holistically developed human beings. They must fly the Kingdom of Lesotho flag high into the stratosphere! Yes, we can! Yes, we absolutely must! #Hauuoeng Basotho!