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Key findings
  • Seven in 10 Basotho (71%) believe the government has handled the dispute with teachers badly.
  • An overwhelming majority (81%) of Basotho support the teachers’ action, including 70% who say they “strongly support” it.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of citizens say that parents should be involved in the resolution of the dispute.
  • About eight in 10 Basotho see the government’s efforts in addressing educational needs (77%) and the needs of youth (81%) as inadequate.
  • Six in 10 citizens (60%) say they would favour paying higher taxes in order to support programs to help young people.
  • If the government could increase its spending on programs to help young people, job-creation initiatives would be citizens’ highest priority.
  • Unemployment is the most important problem that Basotho want their government to address. But citizens overwhelmingly (87%) give the government poor marks on job creation.

Lesotho’s public school teachers were on intermittent strike for most of the 2019 academic year, working just one week per month (Ramolibeli, 2020). With the economy in the doldrums (Majoro, 2019), teachers pursued their protest action against the government, pressing for better salaries and working conditions, payment of salary arrears, and a restructuring of the teaching service (Segoete & Phakisi, 2019; Lesotho Times, 2019).

Charges of government mismanagement added fuel to the fire, as critics said funds that could have been used to address teachers’ demands were misused to service loans to members of Parliament at taxpayers’ expense (Latela, 2019) and to support grossly wasteful government expenditures (Public Accounts Committee, 2016).

Meanwhile, the proportion of students who passed the junior secondary certificate examinations dropped from 65.5% in 2018 to 62.4% in 2019 (Examinations Council of Lesotho, 2019).

After further losses in learning time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have returned to the classroom since the lockdown was lifted in May 2020 (Motsoeli, 2020). But the dispute, which predates the current coalition government (in power since 2017), continues to simmer (Lesotho Times, 2020) even as final examinations are underway, and the possibility of further strike action remains.

The most recent Afrobarometer survey shows that Basotho are solidly behind the teachers’ demands and believe that the government has mishandled the affair. Most also say the government is doing a poor job of addressing educational needs as well as the needs of the nation’s youth in general. If the government could spend more money, Basotho would prioritize job creation for young people. In fact, a majority would willingly pay more taxes if that would mean funding for initiatives to help young people.

These findings suggest that Basotho want a less intransigent government response that will end the protracted dispute with teachers and address critical education and youth development needs of the population.

Puleng Adams

Puleng Adams is the co-national investigator for Lesotho.

Libuseng Malephane

Libuseng Malephane is the national investigator for Lesotho.