Lesotho Case Study - Children in the Streets Programme

Children in the Streets Programme – Lesotho Girl Guides Association and Boitelo Primary School

3.6.1.      Introduction

Former Education Programme Manager

March 8th, 2013

Children in the Streets Programme – Lesotho Girl Guides Association and Boitelo Primary School

3.6.1.      Introduction

Through its groups across the country, the Lesotho Girl Guides Association (LGGA) offers assistance to abused and neglected children, child-headed households, disabled children, herd boys, orphans, people living with HIV and AIDS, and street children. This case explores their education based interventions to support vulnerable children and their partnership with the Boitelo Primary School in Maseru. The following analysis is based on a review of available documentation from the LGGA, interviews that were held with key personnel and focus group discussions that were held with child beneficiaries and teachers.

3.6.2.      Lesotho Girl Guides Association

The Lesotho Girl Guides Association was originally established in 1925 as the local chapter of the global girl guides sorority, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).  LGGA was formally registered as an NGO in 2004 and describes itself as an ‘independent, voluntary, non-profit making, self-governing and non-denominational organisation’. The main aim of LGGA is to bring the strengths and benefits of the guiding movement to Lesotho in order to “assist girls to grow up to be good citizens of their country; to instil better understanding of guiding principles, values, attitudes, and social responsibility among girls and young women; and, to encourage the spirit of volunteerism among its members.”     

LGGA works with schools throughout the ten districts of Lesotho. Girls can join between the ages of 6 and 12 when they are inducted as Brownies. They then progress through different levels of achievement. Girls from 13 to 15 become Girl Guides; adolescents from 16 to 19 become Rangers; young adults from 20 to 30 become Young Leaders; and, adults aged 30 or more become Adult Leaders.

3.6.3.      Strategic framework

The LGGA aspires to empower girls and young women with life skills, career guidance, awareness of emerging issues and social responsibility. The organisation’s four strategic aims are to:

  • Empower girls and young women with skills necessary to make informed decisions;
  • Instil a better understanding of guiding principles, values attitudes, and social responsibility among girls and young women;
  • Ensure the spirit of volunteerism among guides; and,
  • Develop leadership skills in girls and young women through contact and exposure.

The operational goals of the LGGA are set by the WAGGGS. For the period 2009 to 2011, there were six operational areas: adult training; educational programme; membership development; organisational structure and management; relationship to society; and finance management and sustainability through resource mobilisation. WAGGGS does not provide direct funding to support LGGA operations. However, it does facilitate partnerships between LGGA and other global WAGGGS members. For example, in 2011, the Danish Guiding Association facilitated training courses for LGGA adult leaders and the Swaziland Girl Guides Association to develop staff and national board members. The Girl Guides Association of South Africa (GGASA) was responsible for coordinating the project known as the South-South Partnership project.  

3.6.4.      Organisational structure

The national centre for LGGA is located in Maseru. There are three paid staff members – an administrator, a field commissioner and a vocational skills instructor. This small group is complimented by volunteers including the chief commissioner, members of a national executive council, and Girl Guides. The relationship of these individuals to each other within the organisational structure is shown in Figure 1. Depending on the availability of resources, there may also be cooks and other supervisors for vocational training present at the centre. 

3.6.5.       LGGA capacity

The capacity of LGGA to work with OVC was assessed through a review of available administrative records and through interviews which were conducted with the chief commissioner, the field commissioner and the administrator. An assessment was made of the management, the resources available and the general capacity of the organisation.

As discussed above, LGGA has three paid employees who are active in the daily running of the centre in Maseru. The day-to-day management of LGGA is largely undertaken by the administrator, who manages the national centre in Maseru and supervises national projects. The duties of the field commissioner involve national recruitment and retention of Brownies, Girl Guides, Rangers, Youth Leaders, Adult Leaders and Guild members.

However, as a consequence of limited resources, a large proportion of the field commissioner’s responsibilities is dedicated to supporting the education and social outreach activities of the LGGA. The field commissioner is a retired teacher. The vocational skills instructor is at hand to assist with the general maintenance of the centre and with the training of the out-of-school youth. The administrator and instructor are paid from income-generating projects run by LGGA. The field commissioner is on secondment from the MOET and is paid by the ministry.

In addition to the volunteers, the field commissioner, administrator and instructor form the core of human resources that are engaged in the interventions to assist orphans and vulnerable children. They have received training on handling and working with vulnerable children, education psychology, social protection policies and legal frameworks. However, much of this training has been informal or offered through other NGOs.

Financial resources

LGGA receives no on-going funding. All of its activities to assist OVC must be supported through resource mobilisation activities. This includes receiving project funding for time-limited activities from Irish Aid, UNICEF, EU, the Global Fund and the Firelight Foundation, among others. It also includes revenue from LGGA’s income-generating activities, including brick-making, catering and rental of their facilities to other NGOs. LGGA also receives in-kind donations from time to time. For example, World Vision Lesotho provided for the construction of meeting halls in 2004 and 2007. A local hotel group has donated bedding for the shelter and WFP made a one-time donation of food rations in 2008.

3.6.6.      LGGA activities

Through the operational goal regarding ‘Relationship with Society’, the LGGA carries out a number of different activities both in Maseru and in the districts across Lesotho that affect OVC directly or indirectly. Some of these are specific interventions, while others are on-going activities and include:

  • Outreach where Girl Guides support communities through activities such as teaching handicrafts as a life skill, planting trees, building and fortifying trenches to combat soil erosion, providing basic solar power, and distributing food and clothing to needy families and children;
  • Partnering with NGOs such as Durham Link and Kick-4-Life to encourage children to participate in outdoor activities. Through these activities, the children are taught life skills such as team building, respect for others, and engage in confidence-building exercises;
  • Providing literacy activities for vulnerable children, including abandoned children, using volunteers. These activities take place four days per week at two sites in Maseru and two sites in Mohale's Hoek. This activity has been on-going since 2005; and,
  • Offering literacy classes to herd-boys and young domestic workers in rural and remote areas. Classes for boys in Maseru are often facilitated by a male correctional officer, a field officer and other volunteers who function as mentors and serve as positive male role models for the boys.

Other activities offered by LGGA through their Maseru site include provision of temporary accommodation as a transit home for up to 20 children at a time. Finally, LGGA also provides a career guidance and life counselling service for adolescents and young people.

Activities supporting OVC and access to education

Most of the activities undertaken by LGGA to assist OVC are centred around access to education. According to the views of the field commissioner and the administrator, it is through education that children can attain independence and work towards the long-term betterment of their lives. LGGA’s access-to-education interventions have included the following:

  • Since 1997, LGGA has operated a literacy programme to enable those who are unable to continue with formal education to receive education through non-formal means. The project targets OVC, school drop-outs, domestic workers and herders. LGGA assists with the delivery of basic literacy classes and continuing education classes at primary and secondary levels using volunteer facilitators in various subject areas. During 2011, LGGA joined with LANFE to support these learners utilising funds from UNICEF and the Global Fund. The MOET provides students studying at primary school level with books through its LDTC.
  • As an expansion of its existing literacy programmes, LGGA participated in a national Education for All (EFA) project led by the Campaign for Education Forum, in partnership with the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations for the Disabled and Lesotho Save the Children in 2010. The project targeted vulnerable children in order to ensure their access to basic education programmes. It did this by working with partners to provide for school fees and learning materials for primary school learners as well as non-formal educational opportunities for those unable to access education through schools during the day. The target group included orphans, impoverished children, children in the streets, children with disabilities, herders, out-of-school youth and young domestic workers.  LGGA implemented this programme in five districts: Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Berea and Leribe. Its activities included sensitisation of traditional and community leaders on access to education; provision of grants for tuition and examination fees for learners; registration of out-of-school learners with LDTC; and purchasing of learning materials.
  • With support from the Firelight Foundation, and through its income-generating activities, LGGA pays school fees and provides for the other educational needs (uniforms, shoes, books and stationery) of children and adolescents that come to the centre for assistance. In 2011, LGGA assisted 27 children around the country with the payment of school fees and provision for other educational needs. Many of the young children assisted by LGGA are enrolled at Boitelo Primary School, which is a government-owned institution. The school accepts the children from LGGA at any time during the school year. The school also provides for uniforms, stationery and other general needs arising from school attendance. Guiding groups in districts outside Maseru mobilise resources for similar purposes in their local communities.
  • LGGA received support from the EU through UNICEF to implement a Sister for Sister Project. Seven core Girl Guide facilitators, trained in a partnership with the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, supported a team of more than 70 peer educators (both Girl Guides and Young Leaders) to work in schools and communities to engage their male and female counterparts on HIV prevention, risk reduction and avoidance skills. A component of the Sister for Sister Project was adapted to address adolescent girls not in school, either due to early marriage or pregnancy. However, funding for this component was not provided due to the suspension of the civil society funding programme operated by the National AIDS Commission.

The members of LGGA carry out other activities focussed more generally on the well-being of children but which nevertheless have an impact on the children’s schooling, including the provision of counselling and play therapy when possible. In Maseru, this also includes the provision of a daily meal for children and adolescents living at the centre and for vulnerable children in the surrounding community.

3.6.7.      Children in the Streets programme

Since 1977, LGGA has operated a programme to provide protection and support to street children in Maseru. While there is no official estimate of the number, children living in the streets have become a daily and painfully visible reality, particularly as the impact on families and communities of the HIV epidemic has intensified. Although there is no formal project document guiding the implementation of the programme, LGGA staff and volunteers involved with street children say that the main aims are to:

  • Establish a relationship with the children while still in the streets so as to build trust and eventually bring them into the project;
  • Counsel the children, either alone or with their families;Rehabilitate and reconcile the children with their families (when and where possible);
  • Provide a place of safety, including food and shelter, while or until the children can be reconciled with their families or have regained control over their lives;
  • Assess, counsel and prepare an action plan for their individual rehabilitation;
  • Enable younger children to attend school; and,
  • Provide literacy programmes and vocational skills training for both illiterate and older children who cannot go to school.

As part of this programme, Girl Guide volunteers go into the streets to identify street children and offer them a place of safety and support. The children’s ages range from 4 to 19. Children are also referred to the centre through various means, including teachers in schools or community members who notice that the children are in distress. Once these children agree to come into the shelter, staff and volunteers start to form relationships with them and attempt to work out a programme of rehabilitation to prevent these children from returning to the streets.

While in the shelter, the children are provided with food and clothes and arrangements are made to place each child at an appropriate level in Boitelo Primary School. For those children who, for different reasons including age, are reluctant to go back to school, LGGA provides vocational training in brick-making and brick-laying, leather work, and sewing or tailoring. As noted above, these activities in turn function as sources of income for LGGA and the activities working with OVC (including the Children in the Street Programme). At the time of the study, there were 4 young men residing at the LGGA transit home.

3.6.8.      Partnerships for the care and support of children

In addition to supporting school attendance through BPS, LGGA has also built a partnership with the district staff of the Department of Social Welfare (DSW). The DSW at central level sits within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The DSW has the country-wide mandate for protection and support of OVC. Within Lesotho’s decentralised service provision and local governance structure, district level staff work within the Ministry of Local Governance and Chieftainship. At this level, there are social workers and auxiliary social workers who identify and work with OVC in collaboration with district level education officers and bursary officers, special education officers, district-level staff within the OMHC, police officers located within CGPUs, and members of the district health management teams (DHMTs).

Through the DSW entry point at district level, LGGA has been able to successfully refer children for family re-unification or placement in foster homes, placement in alternative care facilities, bursaries for secondary schooling or full-time attendance at one of the country’s vocational training institutions, or health services including adolescent-friendly HIV and sexual and reproductive health programmes. The partnership with DSW has also provided training for teachers at BPS on child protection and psycho-social support for OVC, among other topics. There are many success stories from the programme whereby vulnerable children have been able to address their life circumstances, to gain independence, and to seek out employment or pursue education as far as tertiary level.

3.6.9.      Results

The 2011 annual report states that:

  • Membership in LGGA continued to grow. While in 2008, there were 2,711 members across the country, in 2009 this exceeded 4,000;
  • Through the Sister for Sister HIV and AIDS project, 9,600 adolescent girls were reached in 126 schools in two six month implementation periods from 2010 to 2011;
  • Only 10 children were assisted to participate in non-formal education programmes. The late arrival of funds meant that other children identified for this support were no longer reachable by the centre.

LGGA continued to provide training to poor communities on the use of solar cookers. It also worked to maintain its HIV and AIDS and life skills programmes, either through volunteer labour or with minimal support from its own income-generating activities. There are no specific results stated for the Children in the Streets Programme. One staff member estimated that, at the time the report was written, 17 children were being fed on a daily basis at the centre in Maseru.

3.6.10.  Views of children assisted by LGGA

Two focus group sessions were convened, one with children currently participating in the programme and another with young adults who had been assisted before.

Views of current LGGA child beneficiaries

Other than being approached directly by LGGA staff or volunteers, children in need of assistance heard about LGGA through family, friends and other children who were already being assisted. Prior to being assisted by LGGA, children faced a range of problems, including no income and, consequently, no food in their households; no school uniform or shoes, and no books or other learning materials; having to take care of younger siblings or ailing family members, including parents. In the words of the children themselves, there were a number of barriers:

I was self-conscious and did not want to go to school not clean. I did not have school books or other things that I needed.

My mother was sick and unemployed. There was no money for the school uniform.

I did not have an adult to take care of me and to make sure that I attended school.

I had to stay at home to take care of my sister’s baby.

Many of these barriers were resolved through the intervention of LGGA and its partners. For example, in one case a relative was found to care for an ailing parent allowing the child to attend school. In all cases, what the children benefitted from through LGGA assistance are the provision of school related materials and supplies, regular meals, a place where they felt safe and cared for, and opportunities to gain life skills and to work out their life situation.

As for the benefits and the impacts of LGGA assistance, the children were clear.

My self-esteem has improved. Now I can even go to church without worrying about how I look because I now have presentable clothes.

I was able to attend the school I like and have had assistance with my school fees since I started school to the present.

I just finished Standard 7 and now I am going to be able to select a [secondary} school I wish to attend.

I am in high school and I live in a boarding house. When I have any problems the centre helps me.

The children also mentioned opportunities to participate in non-school activities, including camping trips, sports competitions, and, for some, the chance to attend a football match at the 2010 World Cup. LGGA’s primary partners in providing these additional activities for children are Lesotho Durham Link and Kick-4-Life.

Views of Former Beneficiaries of LGGA Support

As for the young adults who were assisted in their childhood by LGGA, the sentiments of gratitude were similar. Most of these individuals had heard that LGGA assisted children in need either from friends or family members who were Girl Guides, or through their teachers and fellow students at school. At the time, many of these young adults were in situations of moderate to extreme vulnerability.

I did not feel like I was getting enough love from home and I could not attend school. But once I joined LGGA, I felt loved and was able to attend school.

I lived on the street and LGGA took me in and now takes care of me.

My father had some difficulties and had to leave the country in 1998. This resulted in some difficulties for my family. My school fees could not be paid for until LGGA helped me.

I was working and going to school at the same time. I was under a lot of stress and I received a lot of support from LGGA.

My mother was struggling to get me and my three other siblings into school. So I decided to leave school so that she could afford to enrol my brothers and sisters who were more interested in going to school.

As for the kind of assistance that meant most to them, the participants said the following:

LGGA helped me to change my attitude. I had developed a negative view on life. I got counselling from them and now I am very positive about life.

It helped me change my attitude and gave me a place to stay.

LGGA helped me to go to school. It helped me to grow as a person.

The young adults also described the impact of the assistance LGGA gave them:

I was able to go to school because of LGGA. Today I am aware of who I am. I am aware of the goals that I have set for my life.

Being a part of LGGA has helped me improve my self-esteem.

LGGA has helped me grow as a person and has given me exposure to the international world though being able to represent LGGA in forums held in other countries.

Because of LGGA, I am now a peer educator and I can now pass on what I learned from the organisation on to others.

Finally, the participants expressed their concern about the ability of LGGA to continue to offer the support they received to other children in need. They collectively wished that LGGA could find stable funding in order to increase the number of children it supports. They also wished that LGGA had more partners to provide for the needs of the children it supports.

3.6.11.  Profiles of child beneficiaries of LGGA

The structures that are in place at LGGA to assist OVC are informal and therefore the assistance offered to each child is managed on an individual basis according to the needs of each child. To gain further insight into the needs of the children and the impact LGGA has had, two children were interviewed and asked to discuss in detail their lives before and after the assistance. The personal details in these profiles have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants.

Palesa’s experiences

Palesa is a 15-year-old girl currently in her fourth year of high school in the Maseru district. Her relationship with LGGA began when she started school at Boitelo Primary School in 2002. At the time that she was brought to LGGA, she had been removed from her maternal uncle’s guardianship as a result of the abuse that she suffered while in his care. The whereabouts of her parents was unclear. It was believed that the Palesa’s mother had mental health problems. Palesa was initially placed at the children’s shelter and then placed under the care of her uncle’s neighbours. LGGA has been assisting her with all her school needs including buying her school uniforms, school shoes, books and stationery. At Boitelo Primary School, there were no fees but since high school is not free in Lesotho, LGGA has been paying for her fees on a continuous basis. In addition, since she was first removed from her uncle’s care, LGGA has been providing her with other personal items including clothes, toiletries and meals.

Although Palesa was placed under the neighbour’s guardianship, the close proximity with her alcoholic uncle continued to cause problems for her. This led GGA to make contact with his estranged wife, who suggested that Palesa be placed with her mother in a village away from Maseru. LGGA was responsible for transferring Palesa to the village and finding her a school in the village. However, problems arose at her new home and LGGA intervened again and housed her at the centre in Maseru. During the school holidays, Palesa returns to Maseru to live with the neighbours that took her in when she was young. She spends her days at the centre helping other girls her age that are being assisted by LGGA. The girls, along with Palesa, have reported that they enjoy being at the centre as it keeps them away from the street; they are taught how to be responsible; they are fed; and, they know that at the centre there are people who care for them. Although Palesa’s abusive uncle has since died, Palesa has continued to be under the care of LGGA. Last year, in 2011, Palesa successfully completed her Junior Certificate exams with a 2nd class pass.

Palesa has developed a very strong relationship with LGGA over the years. In particular, she relies on the field commissioner to assist her with all her needs including emotional needs. The field commissioner said during an interview that Palesa is considered one of the neediest of children in their care and, as a consequence the trauma and hardships that she has endured, she is a “very sensitive” child who can sometimes respond aggressively when she feels threatened. However, LGGA has not been able to provide formal counselling to Palesa as a consequence of limited resources. Whenever Palesa has any problems or needs that require urgent attention, she contacts the field commissioner directly at any time of the day or night (she has been known to call the field commissioner at home at 1am and at 3am). Recently, when she was preparing to write her exams, at 11pm, she called the field commissioner to remind her that she was soon going to be writing her maths exam and needed her math instruments. With the help of a Girl Guide leader, the field commissioner saw to it that Palesa had her instruments by the end of the week. Her reasons for assisting Palesa beyond her call of duty are clear: “She is a child and we want her to achieve so that she can have a future.”

Interestingly, although the field commissioner has formed a very close relationship with Palesa, she has not visited her home. When asked about this, the field commissioner explained that this is because Palesa will always call her or come to the centre when she needs help. Due to limited resources, unless it is necessary to visit the homes of the children, the field commissioner and other staff members will not visit the homes of the children they are assisting. The field commissioner highlighted the fact that the centre is in need of a social worker. Social workers are available through the DSW but they are usually only called upon in relation to the rehabilitation of children living in the streets.

Lereko’s experiences

Lereko is a 16-year-old boy in his third year of high school. Lereko was formerly a child living in the streets before he came to live at the LGGA centre in 2006. His guardian, a female relative, brought him to Maseru following the death of his mother but abandoned him after three weeks. One Sunday, he was sent to town and when he returned home, the family had moved without informing anyone of their whereabouts. He has never been able to find them. Lereko lived in the streets until he was brought to the centre by a Girl Guide leader who found him. Lereko underwent a process of rehabilitation during which LGGA attempted to find and establish contact with family members – but to no avail so he has continued to live at the centre the past five years.

LGGA provides him not only with shelter but with clothes, food, and all his other basic needs such as toiletries. With respect to his schooling, LGGA initially secured a place for him at Boitelo Primary School and since completing his studies there, he has been attending high school and his fees are paid for by LGGA along with all his other school needs. The LGGA centre in Maseru is located opposite to the National Tennis Courts, and since being at the centre, Lereko has learned to play tennis to the extent that he attends regional tournaments and has his trophy and medals displayed in the LGGA offices. LGGA tries to assist him where possible, but most of his tennis sponsorship comes from the National Tennis Association, which liaises regularly with LGGA to inform the staff of his progress.

3.6.12.  Views of Boitelo Primary School teachers

A focus group discussion was conducted with teachers at Boitelo Primary School to ascertain their views on the needs of the children and the assistance provided by LGGA to its child beneficiaries. To start with, teachers were asked to identify the main sources of vulnerability of children at the school and the two main causes that were identified were the death of parents and poverty. As a consequence of vulnerability, the teachers said that most of the affected children were faced with hunger and were poorly clothed. Other problems that were identified included lack of love, lack of stable homes, abuse at home, prostitution and poor academic performance.

The interventions by LGGA were found to have had a positive influence on the behaviour of the students at Boitelo Primary School. The attendance of the children at school significantly improved, along with their academic performance and their mental and emotional well-being. As the children’s self-esteem improved they performed better both academically and socially.

3.6.13.  On-going challenges

LGGA has had many successes in its education-based interventions to assist OVC. Many children have been able to proceed through primary school to high school and even as far as tertiary education. But despite its achievements, LGGA struggles to maintain both its Girl Guide programmes as well as its support for OVC. At the time the case study was conducted, LGGA was facing a significant challenge in funding for its interventions to assist OVC. Although staff were sometimes not paid regularly, a strong commitment to the organisation remained.

However, financial constraints have had an adverse impact on the capacity at LGGA. In separate interviews with the chief commissioner, the field commissioner and the administrator, all three concurred that funding was their greatest difficulty and that it had limited the capacity of the organisation as they were unable to hire a book-keeper and a much needed social worker. As discussed above, in the case of Palesa, while she has been supported for many years by LGGA and has formed very close relationships, her psychological needs have not been adequately addressed nor have any home visits been conducted to assess her living conditions. Therefore, the monitoring of children being assisted by LGGA is compromised. The organisation relies on the children themselves reporting back to the centre regularly and at the end of each academic year to bring copies of their report cards.  

Although a strategic plan for the period 2012-2014 had been completed, none of the main activities are yet funded. Finally, there was evident concern that the growing number of children in need of support, encountered both through LGGA’s outreach to street children but also through its regular activities in each district, was burdening the organisation and taking it away from some of its core activities around the promotion of LGGA values and the development of girls and young women to be independent and responsible members of their local communities.

About the author(s)

Wongani Grace Nkhoma is the Education Programme Manager. Wongani has over 10 years experience working in the development sector. Before joining OSISA, Wongani worked with ActionAid International - Malawi as Regional Manager and Education Policy Coordinator


  • 1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts; Rosebank, GP 2196; South Africa
  • T. +27 (0)11 587 5000
  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099