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in loco fellows 2020 blog series #4: The stone the builder refused

My name is Paki T’sotleho, I am a 29 year old man with a heart of a kid, a mind of an old soul and the body of a giant. I am part of the 2020 cohort of the in loco fellowship and a contributor to the vision set by rise international. I hold a Bsc in Construction studies in the built environment from the University of the Witwatersrand. This program focuses on all aspects of construction; from Construction Management and Technology, Quantity Surveying, Property studies, Construction law, Building design, Building science and Construction Economics. The importance of this programme is to broaden one’s take on the construction industry so that going further with either a professional career or a contractor/ entrepreneur route you understand your role and how you fit in and keep up with the ever growing and changing construction industry.

Paki working on site

I strongly believe that ignorance, coupled with the “know it all” attitude is the root of the downfall of our Basotho People and hinders growth for Lesotho. In return this attitude leaves us, the youth, with a frustrated and discouraged outlook for Lesotho. With that said, the reason I applied for the in loco fellowship programme was that for the first time I came across a programme that seemed eager to give the young Mosotho child a vision, a platform to voice their creativity, challenge and grow their acquired skills from the built environment and at the same time teach them how to be independent and to self-sustain themselves when they go out into the field.

At this stage of the fellowship programme (3 months in), I have learnt how to breakdown Bills of Quantities into a material list. They can be used as a point of reference to see if your project is in line with the budget and indicate expenses that were not accounted for in the Bills of Quantities. I have also learnt the most tricky aspect of construction which is the Preliminaries in a practical sense, that has to do with site preparation, site establishment requirements, administrations and organisational requirements for the personnel on site. On top of the construction aspect of the programme there is also the entrepreneurship aspect. In this part of the programme  I continue to learn about how to position your brand, how to locate and expand your market, how to execute social media marketing, the importance of customer service, and a whole lot more that helps you tick all the boxes necessary to successfully start and operate your business.

Since the fellowship started in July 2020 I have been performing the role of a buyer as well as a laborer on site. As a buyer, I am responsible for making sure all the tools and materials needed on site are sourced in accordance with the construction schedule; when they are needed and at the best value for the client. I assure you this is no walk in the park. Finding the balance of being within budget but trying your best to get the best quality material and services possible is very challenging. This role requires a lot of planning and preparation skills but it is mostly exciting if you have worked as a consultant Quantity Surveyor like I have.

Paki operating cement mixer

Being able to see equipment and material, to interact with suppliers, all of which makes me feel hands on. It also solidifies my confidence in my profession as a Quantity Surveyor – this profession in Lesotho is easily brushed off and given little to no recognition. As for being a laborer, this is the most rewarding experience ever – I get to see that I am capable of creating something from nothing with my own hands and personally, I have always wanted to be the kind of man who is handy. So this experience is giving me the skills I need to be this man and tuning my mind to be oriented in problem solving in every task I face.

I am currently working in a project where we are constructing an inclusive building for LNFOD (Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled).  The in loco programme encourages fellows to advocate for inclusive buildings in every project that we take on for the benefit of people with disabilities. Secondly, this project challenges us as the future Lesotho construction industry; to come up with the technology to allow for all physical work to be done by everyone, no matter their gender.

Paki preparing foundations

In conclusion I would like to leave with an overview of my future aspiration. My dream is in three stages; first I would like to open a lamp shop and everything wood that will later have a coffee shop. Secondly, I would like to start up a recreational center/camp, and lastly to facilitate community projects that build parks with sports grounds all over the country. “Along with the trees, the animal in me and the soil I ground myself on, teaches me how to be human” – Paki Ts’otleho

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