Remarks by Rebecca Gonzales at the Bocheletsana School Opening: Mantsonyane, Thaba-Tseka District, April 25, 2019

Good morning.

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister

The President of the Senate

The Speaker of the National Assembly

Her Ladyship the Chief Justice

Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet.

Their Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions & International Organizations

Senior Government Officials

Members of the Press

Members of the Mantsonyane Community,

Ladies and Gentleman,

What a privilege it is to join you for the official inauguration of this beautiful school. On behalf of the diplomatic corps in Lesotho, it is my honor to congratulate Ntate Matekane and all the employees of the Matekane Group of Companies for the hard work and dedication that made this project possible. I understand that these beautiful buildings we see before us are not the first project that Mantsonyane’s favored son has built in this community. Thank you, Ntate, for inviting me to join you here – as I know you consider this place your true home.

As the daughter of a public school teacher, who is still teaching in the Washington DC school district to this day, I know that providing a quality education to our youth is the best gift we can possibly give them. When students have a safe, welcoming facility to learn and teachers have a well-equipped conducive environment to teach, incredible things can happen for our young people. Ideas are generated, friendships are formed, citizens are educated, and the foundations for future prosperity are laid.

As the U.S. Ambassador, education and exchange programs like Fulbright, YALI, and our partnership with the Ministry of Education through the Peace Corps are vital aspects of our contribution to the future of Lesotho. Today I stand here before you, not just as the U.S. Ambassador, but also as a representative of the diplomatic corps and Lesotho’s development partners. Every diplomatic mission in this country and nearly all of those development partners are also engaged in the education sphere because we know how critical it is to building a stronger, healthier, and more prosperous Lesotho.

For this reason, it is truly a joy to celebrate the opening of this facility, which I understood took many years and a great labor of love to complete. It is a celebration of the love that Basotho have for their nation and its development. The occasion also caused me to reflect on another construction project of sorts being undertaken in Lesotho, the building of the national reforms process, the construction of the Lesotho that Basotho want. Perhaps the construction of a school is an apt metaphor for why every Mosotho should care about the reforms process.

If the school is dilapidated, with no roof, or crumbling walls that cannot keep out the cold and rain, the child cannot focus on learning. If pressing economic concerns or social custom prevents that boy or girl from attending school, then it is no surprise that that individual child will not grow up to reach his or her full potential as a person and as a citizen.

However, if a community comes together and decides this institution, this school, is important to us and to our future, then that community will invest in sturdy walls, in a strong roof as Ntate Matekane has done. Together the community will make sure each individual child, regardless of gender, geography, or parentage, has the opportunity to study and become the best version of him or herself. Then as individuals and families are uplifted, we will start to see a change in the community and move forward on a path of stability that benefits the entire country.

It may seem so hard to see where the process is going, to understand why the investment of so much effort and resources could be worth it. At times, it may seem to disrupt or upset the “old way” of doing things. But think of this school here, its sturdy walls, its spacious classrooms, its clear windows looking out across the mountain landscape. All of this exists to uplift those young minds who will pass through its halls and to equip them with the tools needed to build their future.  So too should the process of national reforms uplift and build Lesotho’s future.

Just as this school comes to fruition from the love of Basotho for their country, and from the leadership and commitment of the community, so must the reforms process be based on the desire and commitment of every Mosotho. As a guest in your country and representative of the diplomatic community, I say that we are here to stand by to support and to encourage you, but the hard work and the brilliant reward is yours alone.

Last but not least, I want to offer a few short words to the students of Bocheletsana school. I know you are already enjoying your studies at this incredible school.  But I hope you see that with each element thought out and each brick laid, there is a message. That message, from Ntate Matekane, your parents, your community, and your country, speaks very loudly to me – I want to make sure you hear it too. That message says – You are special, you matter, and your ideas matter.  Your ideas are worth listening to.  Here in this school, you have a place to try, to succeed, and to fail when necessary, because all of those experiences are critical learning opportunities. Enjoy the process of learning.

With that, I will close my remarks, and renew my congratulations to the Matnsonyane community and the Matekane Group of Companies on this auspicious and joyous occasion.

Kea Leboha. Khotso, Pula, Nala.