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Matekane denounces deadly Fokothi initiations

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Mosoatsi Mosoatsi

PRIME Minister Sam Matekane has urged senior Lerotholi Polytechnic (LP) students to refrain from dragging first-year students to dangerous initiation rituals that have in the past resulted in deaths.

Speaking during a weekend graduation ceremony, Mr Matekane told the students that they risked deferring their dreams if they took part in the notorious rituals that have resulted in the deaths of at least six first-year students since 2009.

“I am advising you against participating in rituals that put the lives of others at risk,” Mr Matekane said, adding that the students should instead, concerntrate on their studies.

Eight hundred and seventy-nine students graduated with certificates and diplomas in various courses.

Mr Matekane told the students that while their goal when enrolling into college was changing their lives and those of their families, they could fail to achieve that if they engaged in the potentially fatal rituals.

Therefore, they must think twice before engaging because they risked rotting in jail if they did.

LP has become notorious for the deaths of first-year students who are forced to participate in induction rituals by their seniors. The rituals involve forcing newcomers to carry out risky tasks and endure pain or harm to test their “feistiness”. They are sometimes allegedly forced to consume copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.

At least six students have reportedly died as a direct result of the forced “initiations” over the years, according to police reports.

In 2018, the body of 21-year-old Rethabile Mosito was discovered at the institution’s football pitch in the early hours of 21 July the same year.

Two other students had died at the college in February 2012 during an initiation ceremony.

The duo was reportedly taken to Mohokare River opposite Lesotho Agricultural College by a group of students where they were brutally tortured.

Although the initiation practice has remained largely secretive, it is believed students “baptise” newcomers in the river. However, while others managed to withstand the punishment, the now deceased students, Motlatsi Noko and Bokang Mosala, were not so lucky.

Earlier in September 2009, another student at the college was allegedly assaulted to death by his colleagues during “treatment” – a bullying routine targeted specifically at new students.

The student was found dead in the college campus.

Meanwhile, Mr Matekane said he was aware that the LP had courses that could significantly contribute to the country’s development, such as construction, mining engineering and tourism.

“I am honoured to recognise LP as a vehicle that can deliver strategic investment initiatives through the exceptional skilling of our manpower.

“Our mining industry is booming but we lack knowledge and skills to grow the sector. It is therefore, your assignment to ensure that you produce graduates that are industry-ready to solve some of the challenges we face as a country,” he said.

For his part, LP Rector, Spirit Tlali, said the institution would next year introduce degrees in water engineering, electrical engineering, and computer systems engineering.

Professor Tlali said the courses were geared to address the country’s shortage of skills in critical areas.

“The water engineering degree will specialise in irrigation and drainage, while the electrical engineering degree will focus on power systems and electronics.”

Speaking at the same event, Education and Training minister, Ntoi Rapapa, said plans were afoot to upgrade LP into a university of technology.

He said the college had submitted modules for the mooted degree courses to the Council on Higher Education for approval. It was still awaiting feedback, he said.

He urged the graduates to strive to create employment for themselves and others, instead of always aiming to be job seekers.

“I urge you to create new industries to boost our economy. Don’t just wait to be job seekers. The world now dictates that we look outwardly and globally.

“Be smart, be groundbreaking, be game changers, be inspiring as proud Lerotholi Polytechnic graduates. Be good ambassadors out there,” Prof Rapapa said.