You could be homeless one day and President the other!
By: Thandiwe Kubere
Founder of Pioneers of Life Association (POLA), Ts’epang Mokalimotso from Haramabanta Ha Nkesi, grew up as a seemingly bright child, having achieved a first class pass while completing his primary studies.
However, following the death of his mother, life presented challenges he would have never been able to prepare for. Like any other Mosotho child, he found himself bouncing to and from relatives, one uncle to another, who mistreated him to a point he could not bear it anymore. In search of better survival, he found himself in the wake of Juvenile Training Center, where he got life lessons he uses to this day.
During the challenging stay of four years he had to spend at the center, he bitterly learned; that some children eventually get caught up with poverty, trauma from parental negligence which meant they had to try and “fend for themselves “, and this for some, eventually resulted in resorting to a life of crime, harmfully staining their future. Some on the other hand gave in to peer pressure and made wrong decision which led them right to prison doors.
“This realizations gave me a moment to reflect and deeply think of how to help my peers and those older, all around Lesotho, so that they do not find themselves engaging in criminal activities. This meant I had to think of other helpful activities to keep them busy while at the same time bringing income to live by”, he said. These included engaging in agriculture to increase food production and reduce poverty, and with the help he got, he was able to support and ensure that those passionate with sports are capacitated and more.
“I believe what made me establish the association was realizing that the future of adolescents who come out of JTC is quite in danger, or seemingly would not be fruitful as they would have wished for. This is because the society discriminates them and seemingly does not allow them to partake in any community activities, because they are classified as “bad” people, regardless of their changed behaviour and life outlook. I also felt it was my purpose to educate the nation about this center and the positive impact it has on the youth”, he said.
JTC has studying facilities which enable children to further their studies. It has sporting activities, and children are disciplined by professional officers who also see to it that they get therapy to change their perspective on life for the better and to contribute meaningfully in their society.
Ts’epang noted that being at Juvenile center at a tender age motivated him to figure out ways of helping and encouraging young people to stay out of crime as it brings adverse consequences. “I have learned that there is high crime rate in our country and one would find that those crimes are committed by the youth, who taint their future for a short term deceiving life of glitz and glamour, and some even drop out of school.
He enlightened that after his departure from JTC, he was adopted by a loving family which helped in pursuing his studies and he obtained a second class pass for junior certificate. He went on and completed his high school at Lesotho distant teaching center, while already interning at file paramedic services. He was therefore hired and worked as a paramedic.
He uses his story to motivate young people that regardless of obstacles life may present, they should not feel the need to drop out of school, even though everything may be taken from them but their education they will always have to fall back on.
In his pledge to aid his peers, he established a non-governmental organization; Pioneers of Life Association, with the help of Advocate Kabelo Molefatsane and got funding from organizations which were keen of his idea.
In his quest, Ts’epang wrote and published his first book titled Introduction to Lesotho diety (student guide), which is a testament of his life experiences, proving that though life has a lot of obstacles, it is important to be rooted in faith, seek help from those who are willing and keep fighting for a breakthrough because eventually light is sure to come.
From there, he went to different schools, still on the mission to advise and encourage youth on good life practices. The Association is in operation in the ten districts of Lesotho. Members reach out to schools to encourage, empower and equip students on better learning activities, sports, as well as provide therapy sessions on how to handle difficult situations so as to become reputable members of their respective communities.
Within the association, there is also non- formal education offered and a hub for young mothers, who are out of school so that they can learn tailoring, catering and handicrafts to provide for their families and progress in life.
“We also go to different communities and volunteer to grow crops and work on the farms with the assistance of the youth from those communities so that young vulnerable members of the communities are provided with food”, he said.
To this date, Ts’epang remains the youngest founder and president of an NGO of his kind and the Association is celebrating five years since its inception, using his life as an example that heroes are not born but are sharpened by life experiences.
Now he is a marriage councillor at one of the institutions in Lesotho, he is also a referee in Lesotho Football Association. He also aspires to pursue a degree in law to protect the rights of the marginalized. What could motivate more than a young President, passionately dedicating his time and resources to serve young people who do not have hope and those who the society has seemingly made outcasts due to unwise decisions?