Farm labourers not reached by literacy initiatives

EPUKIRO; The large number of labourers living on commercial farms in the Omaheke Region has contributed to the region’s poor literacy rate, as these farms are often inaccessible for literacy promoters.

The hostile reception that is often encountered by literacy promoters from farm owners when attempting to enter commercial farms in the region has made it impossible for them to reach the needy farm workers.

As such, many of those living on farms are said to have one of the lowest literacy rates, contributing to the persistently low literacy rate of the Omaheke Region at 70 per cent.

Usiel Ruhumba of the National Literacy Programme in Namibia says literacy initiatives in the region are hampered by non-cooperating farm owners who refuse them permission to enter their farms to reach the needy farm labourers.

Ruhumba was addressing a celebration of International Literacy Day in the Omaheke Region at Epukiro on Friday.

“We really have a problem with farm owners. They are very hostile and never want to allow us onto their properties, that is why the region is still has a low literacy rate,” he said.

While the region’s literacy promoters do their best to reach out to most of the adult learners in need of literacy education, the vastness of the region has also made such process difficult.

According to Ruhumba, Omaheke’s most illiterate are not found in the region’s urban areas and main settlements, but often in the remote areas of the region.

“In most other regions, the distance between people is not that vast. Also, many residents in some regions are accessible due to adequate infrastructure in place, which is not the case with Omaheke,” he said.

Omaheke is currently ranked the region with the lowest literacy rate in the country.

According to the latest figures contained in the 2011 National Housing and Population Census, about 51 per cent of children had dropped out of school, while 33 per cent never attended school. This means less than 12,5 per cent of children of school-going age in the region are currently attending school.

For a region where males (35 554) outnumber females (32 484), and where more than half of the households are headed by males; the unwillingness of males to support literacy initiatives has proven challenging.

Owing to the fact that Gobabis is the region’s only town and economic centre, a large number of the region’s inhabitants prefer to live in the rural areas, where they largely survive on subsistence farming.

The census places the number of those in urban centres at a mere 28 per cent, while the bulk of the region’s inhabitants (72 per cent) live in rural areas.

Other regions in the same boat are Otjozondjupa with a literacy rate of 67 per cent, and Kavango, where 70 per cent of the population is literate.

The Khomas Region tops the literacy rate per region quota, with 98 per cent of inhabitants found to be literate.