San Children Dropout Rate On the Increase

THE Omaheke regional education office has expressed concern over the increasing number of San children who are dropping out of schools, despite being offered free education.

Speaking to The Namibian last week, the Omaheke regional education director, Pecka Semba, said despite government’s efforts to offer free primary and secondary education to San children, a large number of the children never make it past Grade 7.

Semba said although primary school enrolment is relatively high, fewer children proceed to secondary school each year.

Omaheke regional senior education officer Katunaa Kavari also said the number of school dropouts among the San children normally increases at the transition from primary to secondary school.

Kavari said at the moment, there are about 2 000 San children in schools, with only about 800 enrolled for secondary schools.

According to Semba, they are doing everything in their power to keep the children in school.

“All San children are exempted from paying school and hostel accommodation fees, yet this is the group that continues to have the largest number of learner dropouts in the region,” he said.

A comprehensive Legal Assistance Centre and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia report titled “San in Namibia Two Decades After Independence”, stated that the dropout rate among the San children remains very high, although some attend for longer periods.

“Children reportedly dropped out because they could not afford basic items such as soap and clothes. Other children teased them and told them that they were dirty and smelly,” said the report.

Semba said cultural commitments within the group were also to blame as the San were very family-oriented and active nomads.

“When San families move from one area to another, they move with the entire family, regardless of whether the child is still in school or not,” he said.

Semba further said his office has noted, with great concern, that San children were bullied and discriminated against by others at schools.

“It also contributes to the school dropout rate as they are often treated as if they are inferior to other children. This is very unfortunate because many of them are brilliant,” Semba said.

He also said many San parents do not understand the value of education and that his office, through the Office of the Prime Minister, was in the process of rolling out a campaign on the importance of education.

Although he said he could not confirm it, Semba said he is worried about young San girls who are allegedly married off from as early as 14 years of age, and that they are usually expected to abandon school once they are married.

“I do not have concrete proof for this but I keep hearing from people on the ground that this sort of thing is happening” he said.

“They (San children) are really clever but it is sad when I see that many of them leave school. The parents and caregivers, who are supposed to encourage and force them to stay in school rarely do anything about it. They just sit at home with the children during school hours, which is very disturbing,” a Grade one teacher, Lydia Kaihiva, who teaches at C. Ngatjizeko Primary School in Otjinene,said.

Source : The Namibian