Books and monetary donations (checks made payable to Michael A. dissen) can be sent to:
Shari Dissen 1006 Deerbrook Lane, Oakdale, PA 15071
Books/donations will be received at the address above by Thanksgiving. (Book shipments must reach New Orleans by December 5, 2009.)
Please do send...
*Baby board books
*Children's picture books
*Easy readers, fiction & non-fiction
*Children's reference books (encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries)
***Paperback books are cheaper to ship!***
Please do not send...
*Small print, books *Adult romance novels
*Books on American or religious holidays
Mafika-Lisiu Primary School
Liqobong Primary School
I work as a resource teacher for the four most northern schools in the country, which include Ha Sefako Primary School, Liqobong Primary School, Monontsa Primary School, and Mifika-Lisiu Primary School.
On my way to school, I am greeted by families from almost every house I walk by. The women usually take a small break from their morning chores, which usually include laundry, cooking, sweeping, and taking care of their children, to ask me how I am. Their husbands are typically getting ready to take their farm animals to the neighboring mountains to graze. Most days, I get to walk to school with a few children that are happy to walk with me and will sing songs if I ask enough.
The closer I get to school, the more students join my walk. They come from many different villages and meet me along the dirt road. Some students live deep in the mountains, very far from where we are walking. I am amazed that even the students who live the farthest away still know every person they pass along their walk to school. They always greet their elders and ask them how their family is. The children usually walk away with a message for their parents or one of their neighbors.
Most of the families that live in the area live in a small rondavel, which is a round house made with a thatched roof and walls that usually have rocks, sticks, and cow dung. They cook outside over an open fire and fetch their bath water from one of the pumps in the village. Some families, however, have begun building houses out of cinderblocks and have tin roves. Many families have several rondavels for their livestock, children, or extended families. I love the sense of community that the families have here. They are always more than happy to welcome someone new into their home.
Mafika-Lisiu Primary School was founded in 1976 and is located in rural Botha Bothe, Lesotho. It is surrounded by tall, green mountains and is less than 500 yards from the border of South Africa. It is located along a dirt road that gives community members access to a small town about 52km away. It is staffed by 5 paid teachers and 3 volunteer teachers who work hard to educate 102 students. Because of its proximity to South Africa, tourists often stop to visit the school. Community members make bread and handicrafts to sell to tourists, which benefit the school. The tour group has raised money to add 4 classrooms onto the overcrowded school. Mafika-Lisiu Primary School does not have the ample space that some schools have. Grades 2-5 share one crowded classroom. However, they do have an office with plenty of room for books. The principal has agreed to clear a book shelf to create space for a library. They also have a storage room where resources for teachers can be kept.
The library will serve one primary school with a student population of 102, and 5 paid teachers, and two volunteer teachers. Mafika-Lisiu Primary School also has 2 special needs students. I am working with them to better meet the needs of these children. This school is very interested in opening the library to the community. We would like to start small by using it as a school library and as their collection of books grow, so will the users. Some of the library committee members will be as follows:
Lipalesa Letsoela teaches standard 4 and 5 Sesotho and Agriculture. She is not familiar with teaching with resources and aids, but is very eager to learn. She is determined to make reading a part of her lessons.
Tumane Keletso is the chief of Mafika-Lisiu. He will play a big role in protecting the library. As an asset to the community, he will be making sure the library is safe and monitored during breaks and holidays.
‘Makutlaono Majara is an active member of the school committee. She loves to read and is very happy that the students will have an opportunity to experience reading as she has. She will be helping to organize and store books.
‘Mathabo Majara is the parent of 2 young children. She will be helping to make sure that the library is used over the years. She will also be monitoring the log book to make sure books are being signed in and out correctly.
‘MaMabope Motseki is the principal of Mafika-Lisiu. She has provided the space that will be used to store the books. She will also be encouraging teachers to visit the library frequently. Once the library is in full use, she will be requiring students to spend at least 30 minutes reading per week.
Liqobong Primary School sits high in the mountains of Lesotho. To get to school each day, students, teachers, and I have to climb a mountain for about 1 hour. Each student reaches school with a smile on their face and never look like they have just walked for an hour. I, however, am always out of breath and sweating. Liqobong Primary School ranked in the top 15 schools in the Botha Bothe district last year. They also had a student achieve merit, which is a perfect score on their exit exam from the primary school. This was the first time for any school in my area to achieve such an honor. I am very excited to work with such a dedicated staff of teachers and students to improve their education program. They have been incorporating the very few books that we have into their lesson plans. I can’t wait to see the students learning improve when more books arrive in their school.
The library will serve one primary school with a student population of 250, and 6 paid teachers, and five volunteer teachers. This school is very interested in opening the library to the community. We would like to start small by using it as a school library and as their collection of books grow, so will the users.
The school library will be divided into four classrooms. Students in grades 1 & 2, 3 & 4, and 5 & 6 share a classroom, while standard 7 has its own classroom. There is shelving available in each room for a generous collection of books. Each room has the capacity to expand its book collection.
We are in the process of writing a grant to build more classrooms for the growing population of the school. The cost of additional shelving has been written in the grant application.
The chief of the village is thrilled to have books come to Liqobong. He has pledged to do whatever it takes to prepare to receive the books and create a sustainable library. The principal and teachers of the school are also very excited.
They have started using several books as classroom aids to get the students excited to read. Some of the library committee members will be as follows:
Mr. Toka Moorosi is the chief of Liqobong. He will be helping to get the books into the village and will help protect and secure the library.
Mphaha Ketlele is the principal of Liqobong. He will be making sure the library is used correctly and that books are returned. He will also be responsible for the growth of the library over the years.
Stephen Kaya is the chairperson of the school committee. He will be making sure the teachers and students are using the library.
‘Mantasleng Tlokotsi is the parent of a student in grade 3. She is looking forward to helping organize the library and to help teach the students how to check out books correctly.
Mojalefa ‘Mochoa is a very dedicated math teacher. He has been using books as a teaching aid and hopes to continue to use books in the classroom. With the help of a student, he will be checking the library often to keep it clean and organized.
I have been working very closely with the teachers at each school to improve the way the students are being taught with a focus on literacy. To begin, I designed a literacy workshop to provide teachers with creative ways to introduce reading, writing, and public speaking into the classroom. Each teacher walked away with several books written in both English and Sesotho, a complete list of Dolch words for their classrooms, educational games, and much more. The following two weeks were spent working with the teachers as they tried new teaching techniques and read to their students for the first time.
Currently, I am working with teachers from grades 1-3 to create a phonics program. Students are learning that each letter has a name, sound, and can create a word with the help of other letters. The teachers and students have been very receptive to new ideas and are very excited to potentially receive books for their classrooms. Students in grade 4 were had an opportunity to write to students from an elementary school in California. This experience was very rewarding for all students and teachers involved. I am working with teachers in grades 4-7 to schedule a time for creative writing in their week. These students are also learning about community service and how to plan, implement, and analyze projects.
Each school has students in Preschool-7; however, students are reading much below US grade levels. Students in grades 1-2 are learning letter recognition, grades 3-4 are writing simple sentences, and grades 5-7 are reading very short stories without much comprehension. While some students are beginning to read, many do not understand what they are reading and cannot summarize the story. All students are learning to listen or read for context.
The preschools that I work with are in desperate need of books and educational resources. I have been working to create a daily routine and have introduced simple books that have been translated into Sesotho. The books are a great way to jumpstart the children’s imaginations.
With that said, we are looking for a lot of simple books, such as easy and leveled readers, phonics, picture books, and short stories. We are also looking for books that will allow children to research simple topics on their own, such as plants and animals. Magic school bus has awesome books that allow children to read and learn about interesting topics. Books with a lot of pictures will also help the children to become interested in reading. Picture dictionaries or encyclopedias would be great. We do not need many dictionaries or encyclopedias, but some with a lot of pictures so students can connect pictures and words. Brain teasers, flash cards, puzzles, and educational games would also be beneficial. These schools really do not have much, so we are thankful for anything!
I am working with teachers to create educational games and materials with items that can be found in their villages. They are beginning to understand how simple games can be educational!
It is my hope that these projects will motivate each of the students to become lifelong readers. Through reading programs and writing exercises, each student is beginning to discover their own imagination and creativity. With your help and generosity, they will have the books needed to begin to learn on their own.
Also, my mother is organizing book drives at her school and in our community. Family and friends are also eager to help with the cost of shipping, which my mother has also agreed to organize. She also has all of my pictures and videos from my first year of service. Her contact information is:
1006 Deerbrook Lane
Oakdale, PA 15071
Thank you so much for your support!
Michael Dissen PCV
PO Box 230
Butha Buthe 400
LESOTHO, Southern Africa