No More Long Walks to School

IN the distance, a group of children jostle into a line to get a bowl of porridge from a pot set under a tree at Lisikili Combined School in the Zambezi region.

The school is just a 100 metres from the banks of the Zambezi river.

Munchala Simulebu (11) hurries to join them, but by the time she gets to the tree, the pot is almost empty. She gets her share, which is dished into a plastic container, from the cook. Munchala then joins others at the dining hall, which is part of the hostel. Once there, she sits down to eat, using a ruler as a spoon. Carefully, she scraps all the corners of the plastic container to scoop out every bit of porridge.

After her meal, she emerges throgh the metal doorway and uses a pink bowl to shield her eyes from the sunlight before walking out to wash her ‘cutlery’ in a bucket just outside the dining hall.

Munchala is one of more than 70 pupils at the school, which is 26 kilometres from Katima Mulilo. She used to walk for about 15 kilometres round trip every day from her home in Kobe constituency to school.

This meant that Munchala had to cross the flood plain of the Zambezi River and by the time she reached school, she was often wet and dishevelled.

This, however, ended in 2011 when some parents, driven by their children’s plight, came together and built a community hostel with help from the regional council to ease the scarcity of accommodation and ensure the availability of food.

The hostel, which is made of iron sheets, accommodates children from the delta areas of Luhonono, Lisikili, Mbalasinte and Imukusi. It comprises two blocks – one for girls and the other for boys. Each block is divided into five rooms that have six to eight beds each.

Although it has no proper bathing facilities, there are flush toilets and a dining hall also made from iron sheets. The bathing facilities are made of black plastic sheeting for privacy.

Veronika Malesu, the hostel matron, says the facilities do not have electricity.

“We connected electricity from the school. It is used to light all the rooms and the toilet,” she says. “There are times when electricity goes off at night because we illegally get it from the school buildings.”

Although the hostel has helped children, some of them say the biggest problem is that it gets cold in winter and hot in summer because there is no ventilation. However, Matini Silishebo and Mukawa Nyambe, both in Grade Three, say they are not worried about the cold.

“You know it is better staying in the hostel than walking everyday to school,” says Nyambe.

“When it gets too cold we have blankets to keep us warm,” adds Silishebo.

However, much of this does not seem to bother the pupils, since many of them spend most of the day outdoors, playing soccer or are found in the library.

Since the hostel was built three years ago, the children only go home during school holidays.

Source : The Namibian