LDF spearheads high moral values among youths

 IRENE SEME

Maseru- Out of 200 campers, only five learners including Lindiwe Ndaba (17) and Thabo Ntai (20) were awarded different awards for their outstanding performance at the boot camp. Ndaba was the parade commander alongside Lieutenant ’Mamofokeng Masheli at the closing ceremony of the first-ever Lesotho Defence Force Youth Development Programme (LDF YDP) that lasted for three weeks at Makoanyane Military Base.

Ndaba says even though she liked the camp and all that has been instilled in her, she wouldn’t want to be a soldier and follow the same career as that of her father. In an exclusive interview with Public Eye, Ndaba disclosed why she would not want to be in the military. “I don’t want to be remembered in comparison to my dad, I want to make a name for myself. I being in the military with him make me feel like I will always be in his shadow,” she says.

On the hand, Ntai says he will soon be pursuing his studies in architecture and his dream of becoming the world renowned architect like his role model, David Adjaye. But after his experiences at the boot camp, from now onwards being in the military comes first before being an architect. Ntai has since learnt that one can still pursue any other career while serving in the military.

Both Ndaba and Ntai say because they were already curious about the camp, it did not take them long to grasp the procedure of how to conduct themselves in the army. “It was a bit tricky though because I had never been at a place that is as strict as Makoanyane where one is supposed to do exactly what they are told to do but I adapted quickly because I was willing to learn,” Ntai explains.

Asked if that could be the reason why he won the best physical fitness, he says prior to attending the camp he was used to exercising daily and he is planning to join the Two Oceans Marathon. He adds, “Since it was a military boot camp, I expected my body and mind to be tested beyond limits.” He busts into laughter when Ndaba says her expectation was to have roasted marshmallows around the bonfire and telling stories.

However, the duo say what they experienced was more valuable as they were always active throughout the camp, playing different roles to from time to time. Asked how she managed to master the art of parade commander, Ndaba says during the camp she often led the parade. “Learning at the camp is very different from learning at school; at the camp the instructors instil stricter discipline in us and make us feel that what we learn stays in our hearts, not just in mind,” Ndaba notes.

Ntai quickly adds: “I became more of a subordinate instructor because I would always encourage others not to defy orders from our instructors. We learned to do things procedurally, to manage time, to be disciplined in what we do and plan to do things on a particular day.” As though there was a choir instructor, when asked if in future they would encourage other youths to join they boot camp, the duo unanimously proclaim: “Yes, definitely.” It is through the teachings from the boot camp that today they are disciplined in what they do, the pair states.

Ntai confesses that prior to the camp, he lacked self-discipline and time management skills, but that has completely changed. In an interview with Public Eye, the boot camp chief instructor Lieutenant Justinus Makoetlane said in the beginning the participants were reluctant to listen to orders and do as instructed. “However, with time they adapted because we made activities that attracted them to participate willingly,” he says.

Asked about the challenges they faced during the camp, he says: “It was minor challenges that concerned their physical well-being because some were not used to being active but we overcame it so much that others were amazed about their physical abilities.” A parent to one of the participants, ’Mamongalo Setlhotlelo, says the boot camp came at the right time to assist children to spend their festive season in fruitful activities.

Asked to describe her child’s behaviour she says: “I had not notice anything suspicious about his behaviour but because I was seeing what his age mates do, I knew he might be misbehaving but hiding from me.” With tears running down her cheeks, Setlhotlelo says she was overcome with emotion when she saw the participants parading on the ground. “It had been three weeks without seeing and talking to my son and I was filled with joy seeing them parading,” she says with a smile while holding back her tears.

Delivering his keynote address at the occasion, the LDF Commander, Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Mojalefa Letsoela congratulated the campers for completing their three-week training. He said as Basotho we have gone astray from our morals and culture resulting in criminal acts and failing to live in peace in our neighbourhoods. “We see this through criminal acts in our neighbourhoods, we hear about it on many other occasions. All these affect our security and people involved are our beloved children, our blessings,” Lt Gen Letsoela said, adding that the camp was the result of such security concerns in the nation. Lt Gen Letsoela further thanked parents for supporting the camp mission.

He said: “I ordered Captain Melato to accept only 100 participants because this is a pilot project; but we saw unwavering support and I was very surprised when he told me that 200 participants have registered. This is a clear sign of how much this camp is needed.” He pleaded with those who have influence in transforming the schools curricula to advise the ministry of education to bring back history lesson in schools so that the younger generation would know where they come from.

Deputy Commander Major General Matela Matobakele echoed the Commander’s comments adding that history lessons need to be brought back into the curriculum. “We believe with this pilot project, parents and government leaders will support this initiative going forward and we will have more and more participants to influence the thinking in our nation,” Matobakele said.

In an exclusive interview with Public Eye, the LDF Public Relations Officer Captain Sakeng Lekola also echoed the commander explaining that this first boot camp was a pilot project which would help them to figure our ways of improving it in future. “The camp is not a military training exercise but, like the Commander said, in this camp we are trying to bring back the core values and morals of Basotho. The younger generation do not care about other people except themselves, hence we have gangs who violate other people so we are trying to bring back the right image of humanity,” he explained.

Captain Lekola further disclosed that the commander’s wish is to host this kind of training quarterly each year but that is still in the pipeline and will depend on sponsors since they army is the government entity that does not make profit. Speaking on what the LDF thinks of compulsory national military service after completion of high school education, he said, “that will be the decision of the policy makers not the army. This boot camp is the result of lessons learned after the rehabilitation of manomoro gang.

“We learned from them that there are some gaps that need to be filled; they need to understand that they should feel for other people, be patriotic, and understand the importance of leadership, loyalty, dedication, respect, selflessness, honour, integrity and personal courage. “That is the gap that the commander saw and decided to conduct the boot camp so that the correct skills may be imparted into these youths.”

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