The 2005 ICT Policy defines information and communication technology (ICT) as “the convergence of computing, information and communications technology. ICT makes possible the fast and worldwide exchange of information, and has the capacity to revolutionise work processes, service delivery, etc”. There is no reference to the term education technology (EdTech) in government documents.
Distance learning is defined in the policy as “a method of teaching students in remote locations where educational facilities are not accessible or where desired courses and training are not available. It involves learning through TV, radio, correspondence, the Internet, CD-ROM, video and so on”.
The 2016-26 Education Sector Plan includes a definition of open schooling as the “the physical separation of the school-level learner from the teacher, and the use of unconventional teaching methodologies, and information and communications technologies (ICTs), to bridge the separation and provide the education and training”.
Constitution and laws: Lesotho’s 1993 Constitution makes no reference to technology. The 2010 Education Act includes distance learning as part of its definition of a school, but there is no other mention of technology as part of the learning objectives or teaching methods.
The 2012 Communications Act provides for the regulation of telecommunications, broadcasting and postal sectors, promoting universal access to communications services, especially in unserved or undeserved areas of the country through the Universal Service Fund, managed by the Universal Service Committee (Article 33). According to the Act, the Committee is responsible for ensuring the public has access to a diverse range of broadcast content, including educational content (Article 38).
The 2009 Lesotho Communications Authority (Universal Access Fund) Rules establish the Universal Access Fund which “shall be used to make services designated as universal access communications services available in areas identified by the Committee and finance the operating costs of the Committee” (Article 4). Universal access communications services include: basic voice telephony (primary service to be provided unser the fund) and internet access and broadcasting signal transmission (secondary services). There is no specific mention of education services or institutions.
The 2021 Science and Technology Act establishes a Commission to facilitate the implementation of the 2006-11 Science and Technology Policy, foster a competitive science, technology, human and physical resource base, facilitate the promotion of science and technology and its benefit to national development, and adopt and recommend science and technology implementations and developments. The purpose of the Science and Technology Innovation Trust Fund also includes funding educational research at any level of school for purposes of science, technology and engineering.
Policies, plans and strategies: There is no ICT in Education Policy or Strategy, but education is included in the country’s national ICT policies.
The 2005 ICT Policy views ICTs as a tool to enable to Lesotho to achieve its development goals, with educational institutions as key stakeholders and a dedicated section on education and human resource development. The policy aims to integrate ICTs within all levels of the formal educational system, outlining the major role of educational institutions in developing ICT literacy, improving teaching and learning mechanisms, and using ICT to expand access to education and improve the quality of education. It additionally promotes universal, equitable and affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services so as to ensure universal access to information and knowledge through the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF) to promote universal access to ICT applications and services at an affordable price (with schools eligible to receive funds).
The 2006-11 Science and Technology Policy gives the development of ICT top priority, similarly highlighting the education sector with specific strategies for increasing ICT skills, human resource capacity, science and technology in school curriculum, teacher training, and infrastructure. There is a dedicated section on Education, Culture and Human Resources, which aims to develop an adequate level and quality of national personnel with appropriate technical skills, competencies, capacity and motivation to innovate, research, adapt and to generate and apply science and technology to better use local resources, imported materials and equipment and to raise the content of domestic value added.
Lesotho’s 2016-26 Education Sector Plan supports the long-term vision of Lesotho being a “technologically advanced nation by 2020”, with dedicated ICT objectives in providing ICTs in selected schools and integrating ICTs across faculties, schools and departments at the higher education level.
In the 2018/19 – 2022/23 National Strategic Development Plan II, ‘technology and innovation’ and ICTs are both key priority areas, with ICT strategies such as the development of STEM, strengthening of open and distance learning and equitable access to ICT subjects included as part of the education objectives.
Digital competency frameworks: There are no digital competency frameworks for teachers or students.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2020 Education Sector Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) included long-term strategies (over 12 months) that aimed to identify learning gaps, implement accelerated learning programs, monitor the re-enrolment of dropped out children, and monitor and evaluate the response of educational institutions during COVID-19.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The promotion of universal, equitable and affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services through the Universal Service Fund (USF) is supported by the 2005 ICT Policy (with schools eligible to receive funding) through the promotion and adoption of international standards in the deployment of flexible and robust ICT infrastructure, development of affordable, user-friendly ICT products, and allowing industry freedom of choice in its selection of technologies needed to deliver ICT services and products. The 2012 Communications Act provides for the Universal Service Fund (Article 33) and the promotion of universal access to communications services especially in unserved or undeserved areas of the country.
Electricity: The 2005 ICT Policy encourages for all government and public sector institutions (including educational institutions) to get connected to ICT infrastructure, which includes energy and electrical power infrastructure and the expansion of the national grid.
Computers and devices: According to the 2005 ICT Policy, all educational institutions are encouraged to invest in computers, while there will be partnerships developed with the private sector to facilitate the acquisition of ICTs for all education institutions and create affordable packages and schemes under which students, teachers and educational institutions can afford ICT Products and services. The 2006-11 Science and Technology Policy additionally promotes the procurement and facilitation of appropriate scientific and technological instruments and facilities for science teaching, demonstration and learning.
There are no government policies or strategies for providing laptops to students, although the Laptops to Lesotho Project (L2L), led by a non-profit organization, focused on raising funds to distribute OLPC XO laptops to children in rural Lesotho, providing training, and establishing a LAN network to facilitate internet access.
Internet connectivity: All educational institutions are encouraged to connect to the internet as part of the 2005 ICT Policy, with ICT public access points being established in schools. The 2012 Communications Act aims to ensure that all people throughout Lesotho have access to basic telecommuniations and/or internet access services and a diverse range of radio and television broadcasting services (Article 36) which also applies to schools (which are eligible to receive funding according to the ICT policy). As part of the country’s 2020 Education Sector Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), there was engagement with Econet and Vodacom in zero rating the online distance learning platform and making it available at minimum cost to learners, teachers and parents with access to internet.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Distance learning has long been part of Lesotho’s education system, and is promoted through various policies and strategies. The 2005 ICT Policy promotes electronic distance education and virtual learning to maximise scarce resources, expand access to education and training opportunities, and compliment/supplement campus-based education and training systems. According to the 2016-26 Education Sector Plan (ESP) open and distance learning is a strategy that can be employed at all levels of education and training provision to extend learning opportunities to all those who cannot be accommodated in the formal education and training system, while providing opportunity for continuing education and lifelong learning for those who want to change careers or need to update their skills (Lesotho ODL Policy, 2015). The ESP includes objectives to increased access to the quality Literacy Programme (NFE) and Open Secondary School Programme (ODL), with a print shop and audiovisual studio operational by 2026. The Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC) has been formed to improve access to learning opportunities on a nationwide scale for the out of school youth and adults. Distance education is similarly supported in the 2018/19 – 2022/23 National Strategic Development Plan II, which aims to strengthen open and distance learning educational opportunities to promote inclusive and equitable education.
During the COVID-19 school closures, the government provided learning continuity through radio, television, and print materials, while additionally establishing an online platform for curriculum and learning modules. The 2020 Education Sector Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) included short-term (0-6 months), medium-term (6-12 months), and longer-term (over 12 months) strategies, with focus on reaching remote, rural and hard-to-reach areas, child protection and support, and implementation of accelerated learning programs in the long-term.
The development of student digital skills is supported in various policy and strategy documents. The 2005 ICT Policy, which aims to transform Lesotho insto an ICT literate nation, requires for ICT literacy and training programs to be made available across the education system as part of the core curricula, with educational institutions viewed as playing a “major role” in improving teaching and learning mechanisms that develop a society that is ICT literate and capable of producing local ICT products and services. Special ICT training programs additionally aimed to be developed for persons with disabilitie, youth and women. Similarly, the 2006-11 Science and Technology Policy aims for science and technology to be fully integrated in school curricula, skills and competencies, with every citizen to be well trained, competent, flexible, and equipped with competitive, market-relevant skills. High priority is given to science and technology education, funding and research, with increased content of theory and practice of science and technology for subjects in the education curriculum of schools from basic to tertiary levels through positive curricula reform and development.
The promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with an equity lens is also highlighted in various government documents. The 2018/19 – 2022/23 National Strategic Development Plan II strongly supports the development of STEM subjects at all education levels, with strategic measures to increase the proportion of girls and people living with disabilities enrolment in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects and ICT at all levels. The 2006-11 Science and Technology Policy similarly aims to fully integrate science and technology in school curricula, while the 2016-26 Education Sector Plan supports the increased enrolment of students in STEM subjects at the higher education level.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2013 Data Protection Act, which applies to public and private bodies, stipulates that the prohibition on processing personal information on a data subject’s health or sexual life, shall not apply to the processing by schools, where such processing is necessary to provide special support for pupils or making special arrangements in connection with their health or sexual life (Article 34).
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2011 Children’s Protection and Welfare Act, which protections children against different forms of abuse, does not include online abuse within its definition of “abuse”, with no reference made to the protection of the child in the online environment. The vision of the 2014/15 – 2018/19 National Multisectoral Child Protection Strategy is for “children in Lesotho live in an environment free from abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect, within supportive family settings, so that they have their rights fulfilled and their full potential realised”, with a goal to provide a comprehensive coordinated system that prevents and responds to abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect of children and protects children in contact with the law. However, there is no specific reference to online abuse or bullying in the education environment, although schools are included in the strategy.
The Ministry of Education and Training is responsible for the delivery, integration, and promotion of science and technology in the education system, with a dedicated Information Communication and Technology (ICT) department overseeing implementation.
The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology has the mandate to coordinate science and technology development in Lesotho, and to oversee the evolution and operation of an effective Science and Technology policy and a national innovation system. To achieve this mandate, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is charged with the responsibility to formulate and implement science and technology policies and programmes that will promote growth of science and technology in Lesotho.
The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), which operates as a parastatal under the Ministry of Natural Resources, is responsible for generating, transmitting, distributing and supplying electricity to the public, including schools.
There is no ban of mobile devices in classrooms in Lesotho.