YOUTH BLOG: Changing the life of a herd boy
My name is Tsepo Ntsatsi and I am 19 years old. I didn’t attend school because I lost my parents when I was young, so there was no one taking care of me and we lacked money for basic school materials like uniform. Instead I had to be employed as a herd boy by a livestock owner in the village to help support my siblings. I was 10 years old.
I can honestly tell you that being a herd boy is very difficult work, especially when you are so young. As an employee, I was not given the same food quality as other livestock owner family members. Instead, I ate the food the dogs ate. The long days meant my breakfast was at 6am and my dinner was at 8pm, rarely with lunch in between. Despite being exposed the harsh weather, I was not given clothing. In the summer months, I would have to go out to the cattle post and look after animals for up to six months at a time. That is a long time to be alone, and it’s difficult to survive in such dark places. But what can one do – it is part of the life of a poor Mosotho child.
In 2009, I started to attend the shepherd night school where Sentebale was involved in helping us how to read and write. Sentebale provided us with clothes and wellies to wear to protect against the winter months. Sentebale also helped us to learn about health issues including HIV/AIDS and how we can take care of ourselves.
Today Sentebale has come up with the new health outreach services for herd boys which will give us chance to access health services wherever we are. At the moment, we are not able to go to a health facility as we are herding every day, even when we are sick. Thanks to Sentebale and the local clinics for bringing services to the herd boys.
I recently visited Sentebale’s ’Mamahato Children’s Centre, where for the first time I met high ranking officers from many ministry departments. They listened to our issues and made promises to help us mitigate the obstacles in the lives of the herd boys. I felt so happy. It was the first time in my entire life I had been listened to and taken seriously. The following day we were able to visit Lesotho Television where we also shared our frustrations as herd boys. It was good to address multitudes of people through this media and the feedback we got when we got back home was amazing. It is only now that people regard herd boys as normal human beings after we shared how we work, how we feel, and how we are treated by the society.
I am hopeful that things will change for the better as long as we work with Sentebale and we are so confident we want to talk to the law-makers in parliament for them to look at the herd boys differently. Our major issues are around remuneration, care by employers, ignorance of laws, land management, access to services and gender roles.
I am happy to be one of the Sentebale herd boy advocates and I commit to continue to further the herd boy agenda everywhere. I am now confident to talk about anything to anybody. Thank you.