“It is absolutely possible albeit challenges for civil society organisations to be productive working from home and DPE is such an example…” This was said by the Media guru, Mr Tsebo Matšasa on the 1st September 2020 during a two-day training on Effective Distance working for DPE staff in Maseru.
DPE is one of the few organisations which started working from home even before the lockdown. This has put a lot of pressure on the programmes more so because DPE is the citizens’ organisation. The organisation adapted to the situation by ensuring that every staff member has a laptop and functional smart phone with airtime to ensure that meetings between and among staff members are held virtually and other interactions are supported. DPE has made a considerably good work in reaching out to citizens during this time. DPE Coordinator and Head of Secretariat said during his opening remarks that DPE like any other organisation was caught off-guard by COVID-19 outbreak but did not given in or neglect its duty. He said that DPE advocated for public awareness over enforcement that Command Centre chose, inspired, motivated and led civil society to establish People’s Response Platform on COVID-19, and went out to communities to raise awareness. “DPE held significant dialogue sessions virtually namely; introduction of teachers to peace education facilitated by Nancy Rouspolous in Cape Town, challenges facing opening of tertiary education institutions attended by Ministry of Education, Institutions of Higher Learning, Students Representative Councils, Ministry of Planning and NMDS, SADC People’s Submit both national consultations and participation in the regional platform, Parliamentary Portfolio Committees’ deliberations over Section 85 of the constitution and reforms and the public consultations on marking 100 days of new government in office..” The Coordinator said.
Despite this remarkable relevance during the crisis, DPE still had challenges. Working from home is a new normal and empowerment is necessary for adaptation. This training is aimed at helping DPE keep afloat while all measures of protection are observed. ‘Mantšabeng Suhlane, DPE Community Animator in Koebunyane lamented that the biggest frustration for her was when she visited community-based groups getting two or three in the group of 25 members because of lockdown and restricted movements. The similar sentiments were shared by the colleague ‘Mataele Mpharoe from Seforong. The Peace Education Researcher Mosala Mokutlulu said working from home presented a challenge because he could not have reference material at hand even when he needed and could not concentrate properly in the virtual meetings because at times they would be attended while doing home chores like looking after the cattle. The National Animator Relebohile Senyane said that she is gradually realising that a lot can be achieved from home. “ I used to leave office very late …thinking that I might not be able to work from home…I see now that it is possible…but it has its challenges…” She testified.
This training is expected to help DPE become more efficient and productive this time. DPE has community libraries in eight areas where computers and social media are being introduced to the rural and hard to reach areas of Seforong, Hloahloeng, Lebakeng, khoelenya, Polihali, Lekokoaneng, ‘Mamaebana and Koebunyane.