The Kingdom of Lesotho

Published by Wade Publications CC

Education & Training

Lesotho’s Ministry of Education and Training works to ensure accessibility, quality, equity and relevance in education in view of the sector’s role in job creation and poverty alleviation.

The Government of Lesotho has made significant progress in increasing access to education, particularly at the basic education level (Grades 1–10), and at 12.98 percent of GDP, expenditure on education is above average for the region. Furthermore, the country has one of the highest adult literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa, currently estimated at 85.09 percent by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). However, although the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which relate to education are within reach, there are still many challenges facing Lesotho, particularly with regard to the quality of learners, their learning environment, the curriculum and teachers.


Since Independence in 1966, education has been prioritised by the Government of Lesotho as a means of promoting socioeconomic development. The current goal is to achieve basic education for all by 2015, and initiatives which have been established in this regard include:

  • Free access to primary education
  • Provision of textbooks and stationery for primary education and the book rental scheme for secondary education
  • Bursary scheme for orphans and the needy
  • Primary school feeding scheme
  • Integration of learners with special needs into the education system
  • Equal opportunities for all learners, irrespective of gender and ethnicity

Alongside these egalitarian drives, elements of quality, equity and relevance inherent in the concept of basic education have called for the development of curriculum systems and modes of assessment which ensure the efficient and effective development of personal, social, practical and vocational skills of learners.

Obstacles to education
The education sector, while having achieved much, continues to struggle with issues such as the sub-optimal quality of education and low pass rates at the basic education level, not to mention limited infrastructure to absorb new entrants into the system. The quality of the learning environment has also been raised as a concern, particularly in rural areas and with regard to secondary schools, where compulsory enrolment in primary education has meant more learners entering the secondary phase which is ill-equipped to accommodate these numbers. In addition, it has been suggested that appropriate screening of learners needs to take place to determine any physical problems – such as hunger or health issues – which may affect their ability to learn.

In a review by the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) entitled ‘Lesotho: Effective Delivery of Public Education Services’, it is argued by the author, Dr Mamoeketsi Nkiseng Ntho, that while Lesotho has ratified all international treaties on education, holding Government accountable to these commitments is a challenge. This is made more difficult as the Government is only a minor shareholder in the sector, with the majority of schools run by faith-based organisations and the private sector. As a result, coordination and collaboration remain problematic, undermining the prospects of data collection and effective planning. Although Lesotho continues to benefit from the goodwill of the international community, especially where infrastructure is concerned, budgeting and financial management need to be tracked to ensure meaningful developments.

The education roadmap
The Budget Framework Paper for 2012-2015 contains the following goals for education:

  • To increase access to education at all levels
  • To strengthen and support the provision of pre-primary education in community centres, home-bases and reception classes
  • To increase net enrolment in secondary school through bursaries to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and the construction of new schools and classrooms
  • To strengthen existing learning posts and study centres, and to expand these to an additional four districts
  • To diversify programmes, constructing and improving facilities and facilitating scholarships at the tertiary level
  • To formalise pre-school education, as called for in the recent Education Act, through the registration of all pre-school institutions and all pre-school teachers
  • To monitor the quality of basic education and to participate in the SACMEQ IV Survey
  • To provide an adequate supply of learning materials and support
  • To improve the relevance of curricula and learning materials in line with the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy
  • To develop market-led training programmes for technical and vocational education (TVET)
  • To implement an electronic teacher management database

Furthermore, a National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), which runs until 2016/17, has as one of its focal areas the revision of programmes and curricula of educational institutions to meet the demands of Lesotho as a developing country and to cater to industry-specific needs. The main initiatives for the 2014/15 period involve: decentralising the education inspectorate for the purpose of intensifying support to schools; re-vamping technical and vocational education and training; and implementing the Curriculum and Assessment Policy introduced in 2013/14, including localisation of the Senior Secondary Curriculum.

Budgetary commitments
Education remains a policy priority, with the emphasis on improving the quality of and access to education that responds to the skills requirements necessary for further private sector development. In the 2014/15 budget, a sum of M229.5 million was proposed to support programmes in the education sector. In addition, M661.6 million was set aside to support the National Manpower Development Secretariat Loan Bursary Scheme. The proposed allocation is a reduction of 3.2 percent from the 2013/14 allocation, which was made possible by the improved repayment rate of past student loan bursaries.

Achieving universal education
Lesotho introduced the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme in 2000 to support the MDG of universal primary education, and the Education Act (2010) legalised the right to free and compulsory primary education. In spite of these progressive steps towards ensuring that education is available to all, and is taken up by all, the programme has encountered a number of challenges.

Government programmes to ensure that Lesotho fulfils MDG 2, that of achieving universal primary education by 2015, include the provision of bursaries and grants to vulnerable children and households, an ongoing school feeding programme, and infrastructure development. At present students experience additional financial burdens as a result of attending school, such as the cost of uniforms, transport and tuition fees, which lead to lower enrolment than should be the case.


Lesotho’s formal education system offers the first seven years of primary schooling free: Standards 1 to 4 (Lower Primary) and Standards 5 to 7 (Upper Primary). Children attend Junior Secondary, comprising Standards 8 to 10, for three years, after which they may exit with a Junior Certificate. This is followed by two years of High School (Standards 11 and 12), which culminates in the external Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (GCE O-level) examination.

Gender equality in education
Lesotho is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on gender equality. Gender balance has been attained in primary education, while in secondary and tertiary education there are more females than males.

Most primary and high school education is delivered through the Catholic Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church and the Anglican Church of Lesotho. Government involvement takes the form of subsidies, and teachers fall under the Ministry of Education and Training in terms of employment. Government’s role is, however, limited; a fact which can make it difficult to implement compulsory change. School and technical education examinations are managed by the Examination Council of Lesotho, together with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Commission.

Pre-School Education
The Early Childhood Development unit established under the Ministry of Education and Training coordinates all Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) activities and endeavours to increase access to ECCD and standardise such training. Pre-school education can be enhanced through the establishment of reception classes and Government support for home and community-based kindergartens.

An additional 66 Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) teachers graduated in 2013/14, resulting in a total of 90 ECCD teachers under the Teaching Service Department of the Ministry of Education and Training.

The UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Report (HDR) states that the gross enrolment ratio for pre-primary education stands at 36 percent. Early education centres currently cater for just under a third of the pre-school age appropriate group, according to a National University of Lesotho report, ‘Youth and Adult Learning and Education in Lesotho’, published by OSISA in 2012. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its Lesotho Country Programme document 2013-2017 focuses on achieving enhanced access to quality integrated ECCD services, especially for the most vulnerable children, with the emphasis on rural and mountainous areas.

Primary Education
In 2012, the Net Enrolment Rate in the primary education sector was 81.63 percent, up from 80.19 percent in 2011 (UNESCO). While the gross enrolment ratio for primary school is reported to be 111 percent (UNDP, 2014 HDR), the drop-out rate is a significant 36.82 percent, and UNESCO reports that the survival rate to the last grade of primary education was just 63.90 percent in 2011. At the same time, at 16.5 percent the instances of repetition in primary education are high.

Traditionally, more girls than boys attend school, as young boys in rural areas are often involved in cattle-herding for their families. The ratio of pupils per teacher has improved from 48:1 in 2000 to 34:1 in 2012 (UNESCO). However, according to the same database, only 67.5 percent of primary school teachers are adequately qualified.

During the 2013/14 fiscal year, 58 classrooms and 150 latrines were constructed for primary schools. Furthermore, under the Primary School Feeding Programme, food was provided to 556 000 pupils. A new Curriculum and Assessment Policy for Grades 1 to 3 and a pilot package for Grade 4 were introduced and are presently being implemented.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains a threat to education at the primary school level, where more than a quarter of pupils are orphans who have lost one or both parents in circumstances where the leading cause is suspected to be HIV/AIDS. This not only affects children academically due to grief, sickness and stigmatisation; some are also burdened by becoming caregivers for terminally ill parents or for younger siblings.

The transition rate from primary to secondary schooling is 85.61 percent, according to the most recent UNESCO statistics.

Secondary Education
At secondary level, the enrolment rate has risen from 19.2 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2014, and it is reported that 20.9 percent of the population aged 25 and above has at least some secondary education (UNDP, 2014 HDR). The major obstacles to increased access and transition to secondary education are the limited number of classrooms and the inability of families to pay school fees, as the Lesotho Government only funds secondary education for orphans and some vulnerable children. In addition, learners are sometimes compelled to leave school to support their families.

As of March 2014, the Child
Grants Programme was reaching
21 800 ultra-poor households and providing benefits for approximately 65 000 children across ten districts in Lesotho.

There was an increase in the overall number of learners who passed the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) in 2013 – 14 862 candidates, or 70.07 percent, compared with 68.4 percent in 2012. A first class pass with merit was attained by 379 of the candidates, which is slightly more than in 2012 (369 candidates). There were 1 567 first class passes, 10 596 second class, 2 320 third class and 6 032 ungraded papers.

Accomplishments during the 2013/14 budget period included the construction of 79 classrooms, nine science laboratories, 16 teacher houses and one multi-purpose hall. The Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE) for maths, science, history, geography, English and development studies was introduced at the beginning of the 2013 school year.


The Child Grants Programme (CGP) is a non-conditional social cash transfer targeted to poor and vulnerable households with the objective of improving the living standards of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) as well as to reduce malnutrition, improve health status, and increase school enrolment. The programme, which is currently run by the Ministry of Social Development, started in 2009 and was piloted until 2011 with financial support from the European Commission and technical support from UNICEF-Lesotho.

The findings of the Lesotho Child Grants Programme ‘Impact Evaluation and Fiscal Sustainability’ study presented in April 2014 reveal a number of positive developments, which include a reduced burden of illness and increased levels of expenditure on schooling, food, clothing and footwear. As a result, there have been significant reductions in children’s morbidity rate and school drop-outs, along with an increase in birth registration and school enrolment. The CPG has also contributed to lessening vulnerabilities at community level, particularly in situations where children from poor households often have to drop out of school and are forced to seek employment in an effort to help families survive. 

Due to the success of the programme, the Lesotho Government took over the responsibility of paying all CGP beneficiaries during 2013, with approximately US $4 million earmarked for this from the national recurrent budget. Furthermore, Government now contributes 70 percent of the programme’s operational costs and is committed to expanding its coverage further. The European Union (EU) has pledged to support Lesotho with the third phase of the programme, which is aimed at developing an integrated system of social protection. 

World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) aims to increase enrolment, stabilise attendance and reduce dropout rates of primary school children, whilst improving the Government’s capacity to manage the School Meals Programme. A Trust Fund is being created to enable school kitchens to be built in WFP supported schools located in mountainous and hard to reach areas.

The WFP committed to feeding morning porridge and a lunchtime meal to a total of 150 000 children for the period 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2014. Following South Africa’s donation of US $20 million to school meals and nutrition programmes, the WFP currently supports some 200 000 pupils in 1 025 primary schools as well as 50 000 pre-school children throughout Lesotho.


The Lesotho College of Education (LCE) is the sole provider of basic, pre-service teacher education to diploma level for teaching in primary schools and the first three years of secondary school. It also provides in-service, part-time distance education to enable unqualified primary school teachers to qualify at the diploma level. The Lesotho Government funds the college, which also partners with the National University of Lesotho.

Course categories include Teacher Professional Learning, Organisation & Administration, ICT, Pedagogy, Curriculum & Assessment, ICT in Education, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Science, among others. It also offers an in-service Certificate in Early Childhood Education (CECE), as well as an Advanced Diploma in Special Education (ADSE) which equips teachers to help learners with special education needs.

The recruitment of teachers is effected through the Teaching Service Department (TSD) and Teaching Service Commission (TSC). Teacher retention remains difficult due to many AIDS-related deaths and illnesses, as well as grievances. The Code of Good Practice of the Teaching Service, which was developed in 2011, sets out procedures by which grievances are to be managed. There is now a Teaching Service Tribunal under the Ministry of Education and Training, and a recommendation has been made to develop a Professional Code of Conduct.


Non-formal education is an essential component for all those that have been excluded from the formal schooling system. In Lesotho, there is some provision for adults and out-of-school youth to receive education that is equivalent to Standards 1-10, most of which takes place through skills development centres. Generally community centres rather than government institutions, these non-governmental organisations (NGOs) rely largely on sponsorship from donor agencies. There are presently no benchmarks for non-formal education provision.

Elevating disability rights in Africa and Lesotho
An employment roundtable, organised by the United States Embassy and LNFOD, was held in Maseru on 25 June 2014. Attendees included representatives from the private sector and the relevant government ministries, who were invited to share their experiences in accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace as well as in ensuring the recruitment of people with disabilities. One of the main reasons for holding the roundtable was to deepen the understanding of the US Government on the challenges facing people with disabilities, thus putting it in a position to support Lesotho in ensuring that people with disabilities access job opportunities.

The Government budget for non-formal education (literacy and adult basic education) is mainly channelled through the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC), which offers six Junior Secondary courses and seven Senior Secondary Certificate courses. The Institute of Extra-Mural Studies (IEMS) in the National University of Lesotho also provides a range of courses.

NGOs doing much of the actual youth and adult education provision are legal entities registered with the Law Office and governed by Boards. Current umbrella bodies helping to coordinate the sector include:

  • The Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN)
  • Lesotho Association for Non-Formal Education (LANFE)
  • Lesotho Youth Federation
  • Lesotho Cooperative Credit Union League (LCCUL)
  • Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD)

LANFE provides literacy education as well as vocational skills and training to herd-boys, other OVCs and their families, training of trainers in literacy and small business management, and empowerment of villagers in development and poverty reduction.

Established in 1991, LNFOD provides support for disabled people’s organisations in empowering their members with life-skills, financial and material resources, and representing their needs to Government, development partners and society at large. Its membership consists of the Lesotho National Association of Physically Disabled (LNAPD), Intellectual Disability Association of Lesotho (IDAL), Lesotho National League of the Visually Impaired Persons (LNLVIP) and National Association of the Deaf in Lesotho (NADL).


Higher education in Lesotho is offered through public as well as private institutions, with the majority of the latter owned by the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL). The Higher Education Act of 2004 provides the legal framework for the regulation of higher education through the Council for Higher Education (CHE). Relatively few learners – just 11 percent – progress through all stages of schooling and qualify for entry to higher education (UNDP, 2014 HDR). A separate stream of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is open to qualified applicants who are sixteen years of age or older.

According to the CHE’s ‘Report on The State of Higher Education in Lesotho’, which covers the 2011 to 2013 period, there are 13 institutions recognised by the Council and the Government of Lesotho. Of these, 61.5 percent are public while 38.5 percent are private. The four largest institutions comprise the National University of Lesotho, Lerotholi Polytechnic, Lesotho College of Education and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.


The Department of Technical and Vocational Training (TVD) of the Ministry of Education and Training is an umbrella regulatory body responsible for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Lesotho. The Department accredits TVET institutions, regulates their curricula, and inspects and assesses them through trade tests.

There are eight post-junior secondary school level TVET institutions in Lesotho, according to the 2012 OSISA report, ‘Youth and Adult Learning and Education in Lesotho’. Only two of these, Lerotholi Polytechnic and Thaba-tseka Technical Institute, are completely government-funded. The other six are church-owned and receive only funds for teachers’ salaries from the Government. There are also church and private providers offering non-formal training and traditional apprenticeship.

Thaba-Tseka Technical Institute provides training courses, business advice and technical services to the mountain communities. Trade courses last two to three years and computer training programmes are also available.

Lerotholi Polytechnic is one of the leading educational institutions in Lesotho, and has been autonomous since 2002. The Polytechnic offers education and training programmes of between one and three years in its four schools, which comprise the School of the Built Environment (SOBE); School of Enterprise and Management (SEM); School of Engineering and Technology (SET) and School of Continuing Education (SOCE).

The Polytechnic is pursuing transformation into a University of Technology by 2015 in order to provide professional manpower development in the engineering and technology fields. The review of the Lerotholi Polytechnic Act (1997), which will not only align it with the Higher Education Act of 2004 but also afford the Polytechnic a chance to offer degree programmes, has been completed. However, there is still much to be done to make the programme suitably responsive to the needs of local and regional markets.

The Ntlafatso Skills Training Centre provides skills-oriented training for the unskilled, unemployed, school-leavers, disadvantaged youth and adults, and retrenched migrant workers. Courses are offered in bricklaying and plastering, carpentry, plumbing, cookery and catering, panel beating and spray painting, and motor mechanics, each lasting in the region of 12 weeks.

Centre for Accounting Studies
The Centre for Accounting Studies (CAS) was established in 1979 through a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Lesotho and Ireland in order to strengthen the accountancy profession in Lesotho.

CAS is mandated to provide tuition leading to the attainment of a professional accounting qualification, for both the private and public sectors. The centre has achieved these aims, with most top financial positions in both the public and private sectors currently filled by graduates of CAS.

Since 2000, CAS has offered the Joint Scheme Examination Programme of the Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) based in the UK, under the three-tier qualification of Technician Accountant, General Accountant and Chartered Accountant. Graduates of this programme are recognised internationally under the ACCA brand.

In 2007, the centre partnered with the Lesotho Government to provide training for the international accounting qualification in public finance, known as CIPFA. The Business Development Unit provides short courses, consultancies and research tasks in the fields of leadership, management, strategy, entrepreneurship, finance and business law.

Lesotho Institute of Accountants
The Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA) was established by an Act of Parliament under the Accountants Act No.9 of 1977, which gives the Institute the mandate of regulating the accountancy practice and to provide for the education and training of accountants in Lesotho. The responsibility to regulate the accountancy practice involves awarding membership certificates to qualifying accountants; developing rules, regulations and ethical guidelines as well as accounting standards; and monitoring compliance with performance standards. LIA also provides for the education and training of the accountancy profession through: developing professional accounting syllabi; facilitating and monitoring training of students; facilitating and managing professional accounting examinations; and awarding professional accounting qualifications.

LIA aims to provide a locally accepted and internationally recognised qualification, and supports its members by providing a range of technical services. Other objectives involve raising the image and profile of the profession by taking a leading role in matters of public interest, developing stronger links and strategic cooperation with leading accounting bodies regionally and internationally, as well as strategic alliances with employers and business organisations. The LIA pillars are Relevance, Respect and Recognition.


The National University of Lesotho (NUL) has its origins in 1945, when the Pius XII University College was established at Roma by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Southern Africa. In 1964, Pius XII University College became the independent, non-denominational University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland and, following independence in 1966, the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS). In October 1975 the National University of Lesotho was established on the Lesotho (Roma) campus.

The present-day NUL occupies the same site, grounds and buildings as its predecessors, as well as additional ones, comprising centres of the university’s Institute of Extra Mural Studies (IEMS) situated throughout the country, totalling 100 hectares of land. The university libraries consist of the Thomas Mofolo Library (TML), which is the main library at Roma campus, and branch libraries on other campuses.

NUL offers qualifications at the certificate, diploma and degree levels, with postgraduate qualifications including Masters of Arts and doctoral degrees in various fields. The university hosts around 11 000 national and international students in its seven faculties, which consist of Agriculture, Education, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, Science and Technology, and Social Science. There are also institutes of Education, South African Studies and Extra-Mural Studies, with IEMS programmes comprising those in Adult Education, Business Management & Development and Non-formal & Continuing Studies.

At NUL’s 39th Graduation Ceremony held in October 2014 for 2 431 graduands, King Letsie III congratulated the university on the admirable results achieved so far under the CHE’s ongoing accreditation process. The two programmes singled out for praise were NUL’s Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Education. Other notable achievements include the development of a unique product using Lesotho quartz by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Technology and its partners, as well as the winning of an EU grant under the INTRA-ACP Mobility Scheme by the Faculty of Health Sciences to train local professionals in health-related fields.

The Lesotho Agricultural College was established in 1964 and merged with the Faculty of agriculture at the National University in 2000. With two campuses, one at Maseru and the other 100 kilometres north of the capital, the college trains extension staff at certificate level (two years) or diploma level (three years) in areas such as agriculture, agricultural mechanisation, home economics, forestry and natural resources management.

In 2008, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) was set up as Lesotho’s second university. With the focus on invention, innovation and creative thinking, Limkokwing offers a hi-tech learning environment, where students have access to the latest in digital technology. Part of an information and communications technology (ICT) global classroom, students at Limkokwing are able to access virtual learning resources across the university’s other campuses which span the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia. LUCT has a collegial network of over 170 universities in 130 countries, including Lesotho and Botswana. The university held its seventh orientation ceremony in August 2014, which was attended by around 1 000 new students.

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