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Mako Matsela, MSc Education for Sustainability

An MSc provided fertile ground for Mako Matsela to progress his African agriculture career, and distance learning was just one of the benefits at LSBU

After studying Agriculture at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and then working as a curriculum developer for agricultural subjects at the Ministry of Education and Training in Lesotho, South Africa, Mako Matsela was looking for a master’s degree that continued with these areas of study but that also laced emphasis on sustainable educational matters. “When I applied for the course, I didn’t qualify to study in the UK on a full-time basis though, but LSBU had provision for distance learning and the Commonwealth Scholarship was able to finance my part-time studies. As a result, LSBU seemed a very good choice,” he says.

Settling into his studies early

Unsure at first about studying in a foreign country and the demands of a UK master’s degree, Mako says that he very soon settled. “Attending the first residential and meeting and mingling with the tutors and other learners was a really good experience, and I became really clear in terms of the expectations on me and the approach I needed to take for the modules we would study.

“The first module that I studied was Environmental Education. I was a bit nervous when I saw the word ‘essay’, since I was not used to writing essays at undergraduate level. So, having met the tutors at the residential and learned the skills of writing essays, that was fascinating enough and all the subsequent modules were tackled with ease. The tutors also assisted me with using the sustainable study skills booklet, which provided academic techniques on referencing and avoidance of plagiarism, amongst other things.

“Although most of the modules were interesting in terms of content and structure, I happened to enjoy Values and Participation in EfS the most, as it incorporated social values that affect societies, economy, culture and ecology. This is the module which I believe had the most influence on me to engage in EfS activities.

“All of my tutors were very helpful and always willing to assist me with things such as extra reading materials and the pedagogy involved. At the same time, LSBU provided a range of different learning platforms to use and supported me with lots of different reading materials, both electronically and by post. In general, the course required extensive reading and so I was happy to take whatever support was on offer. As a result of this, the course didn’t become as difficult as I perhaps thought it would.”

A platform for career progression

Since graduating in 2015, Mako has continued with his career at the Ministry of Education and Training, but has since been promoted. “Since curriculum design is very consultative in nature, my job gives me an opportunity to meet with different stakeholders and specialists with diverse knowledge and backgrounds. I am required to liaise with different NGOs within Lesotho, and then share skills and knowledge in an attempt to improve things. The targeted NGOs are those that generally have programmes including areas such as agriculture and rural development.”

Apart from promotion in his career, does Mako feel that completing his MSc has provided him with any other benefits? “Since gaining my LSBU master’s degree I have become regarded as a pioneer in sustainability issues and sustainable development at various institutions that I go to. Alongside this, I am now a part-time lecturer at the National University of Lesotho’s Faculty of Agriculture in the Department of Economics and Extension. I’m certain that this appointment was influenced by the nature of the degree that I hold and the extensive community outreach that I do outside of my employment. Another outcome from my LSBU degree was that my department recommended me for a scholarship in Thailand to pursue another master’s degree in Rural Development Management, which I successfully completed in 2016. My aim now is to undertake a PhD in the very near future.”

The ultimate university!

With the results and benefits of his endeavours clear to see, how does Mako look back on his time at LSBU? “I would say that LSBU is the ultimate answer for sustainability issues! Not only that though, the tutors are very flexible, have extensive knowledge and are experienced in dealing with students from different backgrounds. It’s easy sometimes to feel lost, but the tutors help all they can and direct you so that in the end all becomes clear.”