By Seleoe Nonyane
The St Bernadette Resource Centre for the Blind has been hit hard by the highest school dropout, with 20 learners failing to advance to the next classes beginning this year.
The centre, which offers primary school learning studies at the Cathedral Area in Maseru, is run under the government of Lesotho.
It was established in 1971.
The 20 pupils were unable to make it to the next phase of their learning after the Covid-19 regulations were eased allowing the schools to open for the year of study commencing in January 2022.
This after, the Covid-19 regulations were relaxed and schools were fully opened.
Disturbed by the situation, the acting principal at the St Bernadette Resource Centre for the Blind, ‘Mamoliehi Tamako, this week told theReporter thatbefore the closure of schools last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic the school had 80 pupils. But at the time of relaxing the restrictions on Covid-19 and reopening of the classes to allow for resumption of learning, mot all the pupils returned to the centre.
“We had accommodated an overall of 80 pupils but we saw a decline in this number after schools re-opened.
“Only 60 pupils returned to school which means we have 20 children who did not return to the centre and this is very worrisome,” she regretted.
She said the centre then took the initiative to find the reasons why these pupils abandoned learning. It discovered that those who did not make it back to centre came from the disadvantaged and poor families which could not afford to fund their stay and learning at the facility.
“Children that come from a poor background are likely to drop out of school due to their family’s financial situation as continued learning becomes impossible for them.
“Another reason for the high dropout rate is lack of taking charge from their parents because in some cases parents have not fully accepted their children’s conditions. When a child does not receive love and support from the parents, it is likely that he or she may experience some difficulties in learning smoothly.
“And these parents, in some cases after dropping their children at the centre never check-up on them or visit them,” she explained.
She added that other pupils are caretakers of their families resulting in a burdensome challenge to them as “they are always thinking about those left behind at home.”
Tamako remembered: “For instance, we had one learner in this situation and she was always worried about her family back home and who was taking care of them when she is at the centre. She did not return when the school re-opened,” she remarked.
She thought another factor which might be contributory to the situation is that the centre is the only school of its kind in the country.
Therefore, she believed, some parents and children have found it difficult to travel from other districts to Maseru.
Moreover, she added that the solution to this problem will be to establish more schools like the resource centre for the blind in other parts of the country which will be closer to the homes of the visually impaired children.
An official of the department of special needs education at the education ministry could only briefly say the education ministry has not been alerted to the situation.
Declining to be identified, she could only say an agreement to be informed of the developments at the centre had been struck with the ministry.
However, she could not comment in details as she was not authorized to speak on the matter when approached this week.
The publication has learned that the ministry is planning to visit families of those who have dropped out to find reasons for decline to continue learning at the centre.
On the other hand, Tamako listed a catalogue of challenges faced by the centre namely, shortage of the children’s accommodation which she said that number of pupils at the centre has increased therefore making it difficult for the pupils to occupy that space.
Another challenge is the meagre payment of caretakers who man the school.
So, it becomes difficult for the school to source enough money to pay them.
Adding to the list is the challenge of food, as it feeds the children breakfast, lunch and dinner in the midst of rising food prices.
She also lamented a rising spending on water and electricity supplies on a monthly basis. It is estimated that costs of the resources fetch an average of M7 000 monthly due to increased consumption.