By Mots’elisi Sekonyela
The Sentebale Foundation Lesotho and the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports, Culture, Arts and Social Development on February 16 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at assisting graduates access professional development opportunities through the National Volunteer Corp (NVC) programme.
The signing was done by the ministry’s Principal Secretary, ‘Mamoeketsi Ntho and the foundation’s Country Director Ntoli Moletsane at the ministry’s offices in Maseru. This MoU will see Sentebale avail a stipend funding worth M1.2 million to assist the ministry in addressing one of the country’s most pressing challenges of youth unemployment.
The National Volunteer Corps project in Lesotho was established in 2010 by the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation supported by the United Nations Volunteer Programme and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as key partners. This project provides a mechanism for young graduates from universities and third level technical training institutions to access volunteer opportunities in various workplaces in the public and private sectors as well as NGOs and bilateral and multilateral organizations. The volunteers are young unemployed professionals below 35 years of age who are interested in volunteering their services at various levels including community development work.
This programme is an effort by the ministry to address the pressing challenge of youth unemployment so as to afford graduates access to the workplace to develop career-relevant skills and experience as well as scarce economic opportunuities.
The ministry’s minister Hon. Pitso Lesaoana applauded the Sentebale Foundation for playing their part in helping the ministry in combating this fight against youth unemployment, saying more of such initiatives are needed that could absorb a larger number of graduates into the workspace.
“We are very grateful as a ministry for this partnership with Sentebale because it is going to address one of our most pressing challenges of youth unemployment. I urge Sentebale not to do this only this once. We need them to double the number of graduates they will absorb next time,” he said.
With this signing, up to 40 young graduates, especially adolescent girls and young women as per the foundation’s mandate will benefit from the Sentebale stipend funding programme over the next twelve months. Beneficiaries will be placed in various positions within the government ministries as interns, while others will be afforded opportunities at the Sentebale national office in Thaba-bosiu and other branches of the foundation across the country. Amongst those, others will land themselves spots in the private sector as agreed by Sentebale and the ministry.
Speaking on behalf of the foundation, Moletsane said the MoU will assist them in advancing one of their strategic objectives of lowering the rate of HIV infections in young people, especially adolescent girls and young women.
“Recent data shows that HIV prevalence amongst young Basotho aged 15 and older is 16.3% in men relative to 21.4% in women. Economic vulnerability in young women has been directly linked to this unsettling statistics,” Moletsane said.
She concluded by urging more organisations to join hands with the government in availing resources to open up opportunities for young people so as to live healthy and productive lives. “Young people are tenacious and fearless, we need to do more as a society to invest in them to be the best they can be,” she said.
Founded in 2006 by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex and Prince Seeiso, Sentebale works to respond to the needs of children and young people in Lesotho to access vital health services, livelihood and educational opportunities.
The ministry’s PS said this programme is also aimed at encouraging patriotism amongst the youth of Lesotho as it is voluntarism for them to help the country with their skills and expertise and get a monthly stipend of M2 500. However she said due to desperation for employment and dire living conditions, most youth see this as employment.
She said up to 12 000 graduates are unemployed and their goal is to see at least 500 graduates get absorbed into this programme every year. Ntho also noted that placement happens on demand where their partnering organisations raise the need for certain skills within their database. She said that there are areas that are in high demand while others never get demanded at all, urging the ministry of education to invest in career guidance programmes across all schools so children are advised to enroll for fields that the market seems to be absorbing like Information Technology, Accounting, Law and Economics among others.
Ntho said one of the notable successes of this programme is that volunteers end up being employed by such organisations that they get placed at. She said however, some organisations end up taking advantage of this programme by always asking for more volunteers without hiring.