Hopes for the Restoration of MLH School

MARTIN Luther High School (MLH) has fallen into disrepair, and now a group of teachers and former learners are trying all they can to restore the glory of this educational beacon outside in Okombahe, Daures constituency, in the Erongo region.

The school is named after the German protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

Those behind the restoration hope that Luther’s famous words: “Here I stand, I can do no other” will not be true for the school’s status quo, and that friends, old learners and sympathisers will help to raise N$380 000 for the campaign.

HISTORY

The late Klaus Dierks in his Chronology of Namibian History says the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) was not allowed to establish a ‘black’ secondary school in the ‘white’ town of Karibib in 1966. Instead, such a school was built in the Damara Bantustan near the ‘white’ farm Okombahe.

One of the conditions was that the school should be built in the ‘black’ Okombahe reserve, while the ‘white’ ELC teachers lived over the border fence on the farm Okombahe.

The school was completed in 1968 and Gottfried Toumltemeyer became the first director with Joshua Hoebeb, current Kunene governor, as one of the first teachers.

Prominent Namibians to whom MLH is an alma mater, Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus Naruseb and director of Sports in the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Vetumbuavi Veii, are set, together with Hoebeb and others, to contribute to the restoration of the school.

A campaign letter sent out to former learners and sympathisers says:

“For 47 years, it was a shelter for thousands of children. It was a safe haven, a fountain of peace and strength, and even now people keep coming to this school because of ‘who’ it is. It remains a source of strength to the learners. The fact that it is in the middle of nowhere is on purpose.

“When the learners return from a hectic holiday or long weekend, they return to the fresh open air, and the silence of nature where they can think about other things.

“The school has given birth to thousands of educated and successful adults their children and grandchildren too. Now the school is becoming tired.”

STATUS QUO

The school, especially the hostels, where the 260 pupils from Grade 8 to 12 stay, are falling apart together with the infrastructure and the furniture.

There are two hostels for girls and one for boys, a kitchen, a storehouse, a mess hall, classrooms, a school hall and several houses and apartments for staff, teachers and the principal.

The hostels are of great concern. The girls’ hostels are kept clean, but infrastructural damage and decay as well as worn-out or damaged furniture still make it beg for attention.

Windows are broken and paint and plaster are peeling off. Taps are broken, and there is no hot water. In fact, one of the girls’ hostels does not have any water – a result of a possible damaged water pipe.

“No water pipes have been repaired since the school was built,” said former pupil, and now the German teacher at the school, Magret Doeses, who is behind the campaign.

Doors do not have handles and locks, while blankets and towels are used to cover doorways that have no doors. There are no cupboards or shelves for clothes and personal belongings. Doeses says the girls sleep on torn mattresses.

While the girls’ hostels were clean, the boys’ hostel is both dirty and dilapidated. Doeses could not say why the boys’ hostel was dirty.

Toilet taps leak and they run dry since water comes out all day long. The urinal, basins and shower drains are blocked, and children go to the bush to relieve themselves.

“I showed you the boys’ hostel last because I knew you would react the way you did. I did not want to start here. I know. It’s not nice,” she says.

The next stop is the mess hall. Not so long ago, there was no cutlery and children had to eat from one pot with their hands. Some children did not want to eat like this because of the health risk.

There are also no chairs in the mess hall, so every day – breakfast, lunch and supper – learners carry their chairs from the classrooms to the hall.

The oven takes a very long time to heat up, and the matrons use open fires to cook – which could be a problem in the rainy season.

The old school truck, which is the only transport available from the school to Omaruru, which is 70 kilometres away, for shopping, outings, sports tours is constantly being repaired.

MOOD

Regardless of these challenges, everyone at MLH seems happy and hopeful.

Some of the children whom The Namibian spoke to, say they ‘love’ the school and are happy to be there because it is a “good school” and it is “nice to be so close to nature”.

“Learners here do so well academically because there are so few distractions and we become like a family. It’s really a special school and we want to put it back on the map hence this campaign,” says Doeses. The headmaster, Herman Auibeb, says the goal is to make the school self-sustainable. It is for this reason that there are also plans to start a vegetable garden and a bakery to serve the school and the surrounding communities.

Auibeb says the school owns cattle and a cow is slaughtered every month. He also says they could also start breeding and selling the stock for an additional income.

“In general, I am a very positive person. We have a vision to restore the glory of this school. It has a rich history and a proven track record, even now, academically as the top school in the Omaruru circuit. Under the circumstances, we still try our best and I guess through this project, we are on the right track,” Auibeb said.

CONCLUSION

The school needs a borehole and a new sewerage system, and plans to extend the mess hall, repair the truck, have new cupboards, chairs, tables, mattresses and beds need to be realised.

N$380 000 is needed for now, but the target is N$1,9 million. Good Samaritans from abroad have offered to give N$1,52 million on condition that the N$380 000 is collected.

“If we act in solidarity and get at least N$500 per donation, we can make it and prove that we are able to stay on top in future,” said Doeses.

As a reward or token of appreciation, donors’ names will be etched into granite stone to be displayed in the school’s reception area.

Source : The Namibian