On 24th September 2021, the Ministry of Education and Training and the Lesotho Science and Maths Teachers Association (LSMTA), hosted an award ceremony for the top innovators for the Lesotho Science Fair 2021 Competitions. The 2021 competitions were sponsored through the UNDP – project on ‘Promoting plastics life-cycle management’, implemented with the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture.
Every year, LSMTA holds competitions for pupils from all over Lesotho on various science and mathematics thematic issues. These competitions are aimed at improving performance and participation of students, in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts &Entrepreneurship and Mathematics) subjects which are often referred to as being difficult for learners as well as improve innovation and the quality of science and mathematics education in the country.
The Lesotho Science and Mathematics Teachers Association (LSMTA) is an independent association of teachers in these subjects. Their main objective is to promote, enhance, and facilitate teaching and learning of STEAM subjects in Lesotho, based on the national curriculum and education development policies. The associations coordinates and lead advocacy in schools for establishment and participation in STEAM clubs, Science fair projects, Mathematics and Science contests and Robotics for learners.
The theme for the LSMTA Science Fair 2021 Competition was ''Plastic waste management using the 5Rs". This theme was selected to encourage the students and schools to participate in the ongoing initiative and campaign for promoting sustainable use of plastics, that is jointly led by UNDP and the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture. According to the LSMTA, through this year’s projects, the students would help unearth innovative solutions for managing plastic pollution within their school’s environment and communities, while also learning critical skills for livelihood creation.
The competitions are held in two levels, first at district level, , then move to national level competitions. However, due to COVID-19 the competitions were held virtually as opposed to physically. this year, students had to design their projects and upload their projects for evaluations. the initial evaluations were done at the district level with 50 innovations number and 73 participating learners.
Of all the participating, only 18 innovations were selected to be part of the national evaluations. Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and disruptions in the school system, not all districts took part in the competition. The district represented were Mokhotlong, Leribe, Berea, Maseru and Quthing. From the five districts, a total of 47 schools took part in the competition composing of 14 primary and 33 post-primary schools. Upon the projects’ evaluations at all the various competition stages, 18, representing 9 schools, 5 from post-primary and 4 from primary schools’ projects were selected to compete at the national level.
The adjudication team, comprising teachers and environment experts selected 6 wining innovations, 3 chosen from primary level and 3 from post-primary. The winning innovations included mats, washing baskets, fruit baskets, flower holders and bottle warmers. The prizes for the winning teams were laptops, tablets and mobile phones, supported by the project on ’Partnerships for plastic life-cycle management’.
Speaking at the event, the President of LSMTA Mr. Bobby Mapheko indicated that this year's competition was focused on raising awareness on environmental challenges and climate change. He stated that these are meant to assist in improving learners' interest for STEAM subjects and improving their grades. Moreover, he urged that more investment is done in the education sector as it could make Lesotho a better place to live in. Representative of the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture applauded the winning participants and said that the Ministry was excited to have young environmental ambassadors. Further, the impact of plastics on the environment and natural resources was shared with the learners, together with the efforts been taken by Government of Lesotho to curb the rampant plastic waste.
UNDP congratulated the learners for their work which indeed displayed creativity and innovation. Learners were encouraged to use the award prizes to enhance their educational capacities. The presences of girls in the competition, both as participants and winners were applauded as it is uncommon in science related activities.
The award ceremony was graced by the presence of the Honorable Minister of Education and Training Mrs. ‘Mamookho Phiri who applauded the collaboration of the various stakeholders in ensuring that the education of Lesotho evolves with the present times as well as making it accessible to those in the remote areas and disadvantaged learners through financial and technical support.
These competitions are to transform learning and attitude towards environment. UNDP encourage the learners to ‘become plastic waste ambassadors, and change agents among their families, peers, and communities on proper management of waste and particularly plastics’.
This project is part of the Lesotho Accelerator Lab portfolio of projects in the UNDP Lesotho office.