…where did the month go??? It’s now the second of April and I didn’t get to tell all the things that have happened the past month!
Let’s begin with a very generous lady who has helped Lepholisa Primary School. When Kathy Parker visited us last year, she saw what really bad shape the buildings are in for this school. She donated money so that we could buy plastic bins for library books in each classroom; now we’ll be able to apply to the African Library Project for a new library for this school! While here, she also noticed how badly the roofs on our three humble buildings were leaking…(that’s why we needed plastic bins for library books.) Kathy donated some more money so that we could fix the roofs. Now here’s where the story gets more interesting:
Two or three weeks ago ‘M’e Masello, (the principle of Lepholisa) and I went to buy materials to fix the roofs. We spent an entire day going from shop to shop to get the best prices for what we needed. After a full day of shopping, we bought what we needed with the promise that the materials would be delivered the next day. That did not happen; ‘M’e tried calling the supplier several times that day…no answer…that was a Tuesday. On Wednesday ‘M’e and I went back to the supplier in Maputsoe, only to discover that he had been ambushed in his car and shot. He was still alive, but in the hospital, and no business was being transacted from that store until further notice (still not happening). Well, we went home feeling pretty sorry for our school, and ourselves totally overlooking the fact that that Higher Spirit really does look after those who help themselves and stay positive. We both wallowed in self-pity that night; the next day I was to give a speech at a Peace Corps meeting. I put all thoughts of poor Lepholisa aside and began to concentrate on my short speech in Sesotho…okay, here’s the good part…I got through my speech in Sesotho with relative ease, took a deep breath and began to speak in English. In the course of the rest of my five-minute speech on what my jobs are in Lesotho, I happened to mention our misadventure with the materials purchases of that previous Monday. At the end of my speech, a man…not just any ordinary man, but the head of the District of Leribe, stood up as said, “See me before this meeting is over; I may be able to help you.” It turns out that he had just completed tearing down the old roofing of an entire hospital complex and wanted to get rid of all his waste…perfectly good roofing material!!! He told us he had to rush off to another meeting but would be back after 2:30. He was good for his word…at 2:30 we drove over to the hospital to see what was salvageable, and we couldn’t believe what we saw; there was enough good material to build new roofs for all three buildings and maybe even a new classroom! I guess The Higher Spirit knew just what he was about when the delivery didn’t happen last Tuesday! Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the school parents to see who’s going to do what…I promise to take pictures! and…thank you Kathy Parker. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the gentleman has gotten the students from the technical school in Hlotse to supervise the repairs!! They’ll be directing the parents’ work !
And on a much sadder note, April has already been almost too hard to bear. On April first, a dear friend, another teacher from Renekeng Primary School, passed away. ‘M’e Mapalesa was in a taxi accident on Thursday and died in the hospital in Maseru yesterday. ‘M’e Mapalesa taught at the same school where my good friend, Ntate Koto had taught…he’s the one who died last September. What’s really scary about this incident is that it’s the fourth death of a Renekeng teacher in as many years. A teacher has died here every year since 2008. Many of my friends are afraid to go back to school on Monday. The Basotho culture is a very strange mixture of Christianity and old beliefs of evil spirits who inhabit certain places. They believe that some evil spirit is working its bad will on the teachers of Renekeng Primary School. I found out, just today, when I went to visit the family of ‘M’e Mapalesa, that in 2005, when the land was first given for the building of a government school, some villagers who wanted the fields for grazing murdered the security guard who had been protecting the materials for the new buildings.
So, that’s actually five deaths. I shall be at Renekeng early Monday morning as I promised, and I hope I’ll be of some help when the news is officially told to the children during the morning assembly. ‘M’e Mapalesa taught the first graders. She was forty-seven years old. Her name means mother of a flower. New mothers in Lesotho will often take the name that they’ve given their firstborn, add Ma (meaning mother of) to it, and use that name for the rest of their lives. Yes, ‘M’e Mapalesa’s oldest girl is called Palesa. One more thing…I shall always remember the way ‘M’e would suddenly break out in dance and song when under any kind of stress; she and the other Renekeng teachers have taught me to always have a song in my heart…and I shall.