If you drive two and half hours out of Maseru and into the mountains following the Semonkong road, you will pass small thatched round huts, crops etched into the soil, young girls in bright school uniforms, and you will pass many, many herd boys, standing alone, watching sheep nibble the ground. You will also eventually reach a small brown school.
The Lesala Shepherd School was founded 13 years ago by Julius, who was once a herd boy himself. In Lesotho, boys as young as five are sent into the highlands to work for farmers, tending their animals. They will work for at least a year and in return receive a cow or some goats or sheep. One day the boy hopes to have enough to make up his own herd. In the winter, temperatures drop below freezing and in the summer, many are struck by lightning. Herd boys in general receive no social or formal education, yet the Lesala Shepherd School offers them hope.
Weekday evenings, boys come down from the hills -- their animals left in pens. Some walking miles over mountain passes in the dark. They filter into the classroom, blankets wrapped around their shoulders, like cloaks, and wearing gumboots, often with holes. Their hands are dirty, crusted with earth, from a day's work with the animals.
The boys immediately settle down at their desks and the soft murmur of herd boys sounding out words in English and Sesotho or working out math problems fills the room. For many, this is the only education they've received. At the end of the evening, Julius leads them in a song, and a prayer. A hot meal is served, steaming maize meal and chopped spinach. The boys eat with their hands scrapping their plates until every last bit is gone. Then, they head out, usually in bunches, sometimes singing, before dispersing and heading out alone to small make-shift huts, made from stone and covered with branches, where they'll sleep, bellies and minds full.
Village of Forgiveness is proud to be supporting the Lesala Shepherd School.