By: Thandiwe Kubere

Botho University, with the Christmas giving spirit and heart, handed over essentials to children in Juvenile Training center (JTC), at Hillsview, Maseru.

This act was said to have come in handy when the detention center is facing so many challenges. Some of those which were mentioned was that since its establishment in 1972. The building is dilapidated and in poor condition. Moreover, there could be risks of malnutrition due to lack of nutritious food and no decent meals for the children’s growth and development. “These children eat porridge in the morning and pap with cabbage for other meals throughout the year, so you can imagine what it means for their development”, said Superintendent Lehloenya.

In an interview with Informative Newspaper, Head of JTC, Superintendent Mohlanka Lehloenya revealed that most of the children in the detention center were brought in on accounts of sexual offenses, giving an example of fifteen year olds who assaulted nine year old kids or younger. He discovered this was mostly caused by the high rate of underage alcohol consumption and drug abuse. With his experience of over 35 years, he realized another issue was that men flee from their responsibilities as fathers and lack the right methods of discipline.

“We have a problem of living in a generation where parents do not know how to properly raise children because they themselves were not raised accordingly. This results in a repeated circle of trauma which eventually becomes a paradigm ship going from one generation to another”, he said.

Mind Psychologist, Mr. Liau Mochaba added that some of the contributing factors of having children in prison are; trauma, which results in bad decision making; lack of parental guidance or absent parents; and the key factor which is the lack of understanding amongst parents and their children when it comes to the science of the mind.

This is because he discovered that the mind is the source of everything. Be it health, poverty, excitement, upholding the law or breaking it, the mind is always the cause and there are consequences which follow. He also explained the law of free will which states that one is the only thinker in their mind. “I often get surprised when someone blames another after they do something wrong, saying ‘if it was not because of this person, I would not have done that’, whereas there is only one decision maker, who is the owner of the thought”, he indicated.

Superintendent Lehloenya expressed that with the great task to taking care of children at JTC which is bestowed on him, it often breaks his heart when the environment is not conducive to cater for their basic needs so that they grow well. Another challenge which worries them is the shortage of teachers to ensure that during their stay, children get quality education which allows them to prosper on the outside. This is because the Ministry of Education only provided three teacher to teach all of them.

He also stated that the budget which is granted to the center is not sufficient, which results in lack of essentials such as cosmetics and soap for good hygiene.  Adding to the fact that they are only given a change of clothes are years, when they are worn out. Children remain at JTC for a period of three years regardless of their conflict of the law.

He expressed gratitude to Botho University for remembering their need and aligned himself with word in the bible which outline that there is no law which exceeds that of love because Christ himself is Love. He exclaimed that what the University did was portraying love through actions.

Mr. Mochaba further declared that our nation is troubled with a lack of a healthy mindset. He said the mindset problem has resulted in many divisions which are often described to be because of politics, religion or others. Due this particular problem, Basotho have disputed over minor issues which could otherwise just be ignored.

Encouraging the children, he said they are responsible for how their lives turn out because they get to make that decision. He further advised them to seek mental maturity as the mind has the power of shaping one’s life. The signs of mental maturity include assessing if the information they have or are told is true or false- this is so that their lives do not become chained with lies; if the information would benefit their lives in anyway, if it is inspiring and motivating, if it needs to be kept or ignored, if it is kind, impressive, respectful, and leaves one with integrity, as well as showing gratitude and being thankful in life.

He explained that with training, empowerment programs, mindset reconstruction, intensive therapy, children from juvenile detention centers are able to detach from trauma, have a positive outlook on life and become reputable members of the society.

 Deputy Commissioner Tšolo therefore encouraged children in the center to change for the better and not find themselves back at the same place. He urged them to do exceedingly well in their studies and seek joy because it begins with them. He said, “Be appreciative of discipline and humble ourselves. From now, talk less and listen more. You have potential to become better.”

Botho University Country Head, Ms. Makhosi Hlalele declared the intention is to celebrate the grace of God upon the University, overcoming obstacles and they thought to celebrate with them, for it is the time to rejoice with family. Another reason was to show the essence of Christmas and observe the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ who came to deliver mankind because all of us are flawed with sin. So this is portrayed through coming together with acts of love and kindness.

“We thought to remind you of our love with the little we have because Sesotho says there is no such thing as a minor gift, ‘sejo senyane hase fete molomo’. This is because we are a University which aims to bring a positive change and be impactful in the society”, she said.

On behalf of those at the center, two of the children expressed their gratitude, saying that some of them came from afar and often think they are forgotten because they seldom receive guests. They exclaimed that this warmed their hearts and showed there are people who love and care for them. Regardless of the challenges they face during their stay, they promised to do better in their studies and become better people.