No ‘Brazilians’ At St Boniface [column]

THE widespread Namibian phenomenon of hair belonging to others (HBO) and Brazilian wigs is nowhere to be seen at St Boniface College outside Rundu.

Instead, all the 170 girls walk around poenskop with neatly shaven heads. Moreover, their skirts should be four centimetres below the knee.

If discipline is not at the centre of your operations, the institution will fail, says the veteran school principal Mary Phillis Yesudasan. “You need to keep yourselves and your surroundings clean.”

This ‘iron lady’ has been at the helm of the top-performing school since 2003. A mere two months after she joined the school as a teacher in 2001, she was appointed the deputy principal in March 2001.

It is 06h15 when I arrive at the school some 30 km outside Rundu. My daunting assignment is to get to the bottom of this school’s success recipe to emerge as the top academic performer in the country year after year.

The assembly in the school hall is kicked off with a hymn at 06h20. This is followed by a very mellow rendition of the national anthem. Before reciting the ‘Our Father’, a learner sets the Roman Catholic tone with a written prayer.

Part of the programme includes a scripture reading and an affirmation.

Yesudasan then makes use of the opportunity to provide a less than favourable review of the mellow rendition of the national anthem. “Looks like you had no energy for the national anthem.”

After announcing the new learner leadership team for the new academic year, I get summoned to the podium to shed more light on the reason for my visit.

I launch a serious attempt at the Queen’s language and hope the justification for my visit sounds plausible. I am sure my physical appearance does not contribute to my credibility. Yesudasan then announces that the coming weekend is a “long weekend”. This means, learners may leave the school and the hostel at 13h15 on Friday. Should they not be back before 17h00 on Sunday, however, the gates will be locked and they will only be allowed on the premises the next morning. At 06h45, the 301 learners move with impeccable discipline to their respective classrooms. The Kavango (East) region is very poor and the only way in which one can improve the standard of living is through education, Yesudasan believes. “Don’t think it was easy. We had no money.”

However, they learned to cope with the resources at their disposal, instead of embarking on a pity party, she charges. She places a high priority on text books and says for some subjects, every learner has more than one text book, especially for Mathematics and Physical Science.

Yesudasan is very proud that they can provide a quality private-school education at N$4 200 per term – which includes text books and exercise books as well as accommodation. All learners and the 15 teachers reside at the school. She is adamant that any teacher who joins the school should as a minimum qualification have a bachelor’s degree in education. Moreover, they should teach the subject(s) in which they specialised.

Many of their teachers even have a Master’s degree with some possessing more than one Master’s.

The school maintains a zero tolerance policy towards drinking and smoking. If you get caught having a puff at the school, it signifies the end of your association with St Boniface, she states unemotionally.

Teenage pregnancy is almost non-existent, she says. Since its inception in 1995, only two girls have fallen pregnant. However, both pregnancies were conceived off-site and another learner or teacher was not involved.

Source : The Namibian