When the Chess Federation of Lesotho, under the auspices of Tlhoriso Morienyane, invited one of FIDE’s renowned trainers Mr Geoffrey Borg to Lesotho in 2018, little did they know that Lesotho will be feasting on the fruits as immediate as a year later.
The delegation which was formed by Mr Borg and one of Africa’s most recognized chess administrators Tshepo Sitale was mandated to turn 20 chess enthusiasts into chess trainers who would be used as super spreaders of chess into the country’s villages. About 20 students, which I was fortunately part of, were awarded with national instructor titles while other received Fide Trainer titles.
The event would be a launch pad for Lesotho’s first Chess Academy Monafelis Chess Institute. The institute which was established in September 2019 with the intention of introducing chess to non-players and equipping players with skills of bettering their play started with five students and one instructor, has grown into a formidable entity boasting a complement of five instructors and 33 students. Its raison d`etre is summed in 3 phrases:
- to be a leader in promoting chess as a vehicle for enriching education of children,
- to be a leader in promoting women’s chess,
- to support and promote competitive chess for the youth
Though predominantly attended by kids younger than ten years, Mr Mona -the founder, asserts that the academy is open to children from the age of 4 to 18.
“Yeah I am still thinking of getting older people on board too, but for now the space is catered for kids, I work with 18 and below… may be stop at 4”, he responded when asked about eligible age for registering.
Classes are attended on weekends for the young ones who get to spend over two hours grinding and driving the principles of the game while enjoying each other’s company and a relaxed delivery by a well-trained and certified teacher.
The academy currently shares premises with the St Bernadette School for the visually impaired in the Maseru cathedral area adjacent to ‘Mabathoana High School buildings. The school has necessary teaching aids as well as chess boards and students are not required to bring any material/ equipment for classes. Students are required to register at a low fee of M150 for a month-long intake made up of four classes.
The Academy also runs private classes on weekdays upon request but dependent on the availability of instructors. Schools and other organization also have a window to invite the academy for students and group sessions respectively.
When asked about what inspired the establishment, Mr Mona spoke of two reasons: An ajar gap of correctly developed chess players in the country and his natural passion for chess. His tested ability to teach also contributed to the goal, having lectured at Sky Blue Academy at the tender age of 22.
Mr Mona, a Chartered Accountant by profession and National University of Lesotho part time lecturer, felt that his professional commitments would hinder his aspirations of reaching greater heights as a player and thus opted to lending a hand in helping create top players.
For the future, Monafelis Institute, which currently has physical presence in Maseru only, aspires to have footprint in all the ten districts of Lesotho and has already made some strides in making arrangements in Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Berea, Leribe and Butha- Buthe. They also aspire to someday be recognized as a formal entity, registered with the Ministry of Education and Training, offering qualifications as well as chess programs that can be fused with the formal education.
For his part, Mr Mphetole Mona is multi-talented chess enthusiast who was born in Ha Khabo, Leribe in 1995 but moved to Berea in 2008. He started playing in his high school days in the early 2012 at St. Agnes School and grew from strength to strength – having won the coveted BMI Lesotho Open in 2017 and the National Teams Chess Championships in 2018. He is one of Lesotho’s 20 qualified chess trainers and boast a FIDE rating of 1 444.