Mary Jane Manning (Lesotho 1976–78)

Monday, November 21
4:48 pm

LESOTHO HIGH SCHOOL SEEMED to be a closely-knit community from 1976-1978. Girls with girls. Boys with boys. Clustered together in groups. They were happy and smiling mainly because they had each other’s support and friendship. For me they were a unique model of poverty of spirit . . . A distinguished feature of character well removed from the Greedy side of U.S. materialism and a learning experience I returned home with.

A great many students, out of the two hundred and thirty assigned to my art classes, were capable & talented. It was exciting to work with them because their progress was remarkable. Toward the end of my two years teaching stay I could discern that some students began to realize their own potential for creating and discovering beauty. They were suddenly liberated from a suppressed feeling of being worthless. Some began to recognize proportion in their woodcarvings and that a unified composition was worth striving for. It began to dawn on them that they, too, could invent or design a piece of furniture, a blanket, a child’s toy, a hat or even design a house. They could now articulate what they were looking at or seeing.

The highlight of my two years in Lesotho was the day the Lesotho National Stadium was packed with a crowd of more than 50,000 people gathered there to celebrate their ten years of Independence and self determination from England. I watched the Prime Minister Dr. Leabus Jonathan wearing his leopard skin blanket arrive in his old Mercedes Benz escorted by white helmeted motorcycle police. Then came his Majesty King Moshoeshoe riding in his full military uniform, escorted by a brigade of beautiful brown horses mounted by the National Guard wearing green berets and carrying tall flag poles. He was followed in cars by the Presidents of Gambia and Zaire as well as other foreign dignitaries. Zaire’s famous Mobutu had on his leopard-skin cap.

The King presented medals and inspected the Guard of Honor after several speeches. Then began the traditional dances and attractive displays of calisthenics by more than 100 youths from many Lesotho schools. There was colorful parade while the band played the National Anthem . . . followed by the unveiling of the statue sculptured in memory of this great Basotho warrior of the past Makoanyane.

The Queen was a graduate of Lesotho High School where I was teaching and by invitation I attended some of her beautiful garden parties on the palace grounds. Her Majesty, Queen Mamohato appeared to be a shy person but very cordial. She told me that she attended a school for Home Economics in England while the King was at Oxford studying law. While Basoto waiters in white coats passed around trays of goodies – champagne included – one could also chat with various diplomats from the worldwide embassies appointed to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.