Things Fall Apart At Omaheke Hostels

Photograph by Jordaania Andima

SOME teachers in Omaheke region are complaing that pupils are being exposed to harsh environments because of bad conditions in the school hostels.

There are 19 government hostels, eight community hostels, and five that are subsidised by the state in the region, yet many of these hostels are an eyesore.

Of the schools that were visited by The Namibian, several hostels have leaking pipes, broken ceiling boards, cracked walls and broken windows.

Some buildings at schools such as the Mokganedi Tlhabanello High School and Usiel Ndjavera Primary School in Otjinene also appear to be old and haunted.

One of the teachers at Mokganedi Tlhabanello, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cited one of the reasons for the poor conditions as vandalism.

The teacher described the state of the school as ‘rotten’ and accused government of focusing more on building new schools while abandoning the existing ones.

Buildings at Mokganedi Tlhabanello High School that have broken windows and missing doors were hard to miss, while a g stench greeted us when we entered the boys’ dormitories where old blankets were hung from a washing line. The same conditions were evident in many of the hostels seen all over the region.

SLEEPING ON TOP OF LOCKERS

quotMany of us have to share beds because there are not enough,quot said one of the girls who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although the boys make efforts to clean up their rooms, the old mattresses and rusty lockers are health hazards.

The shortage of beds at the hostels has forced some pupils to sleep on top of old lockers, while others sleep on the floor. Those fortunate enough to have space on beds, share these with two or three others.

This situation was evident especially at Usiel Ndjavera Primary School where the shortage of beds is said to be serious.

A plumber at the school said the school calls her at least once a week to fix pipes in the hostel showers, while a matron said the situation was generally not healthy for the young pupils.

A Grade10 senior pupil at Mokganedi Tlhabanello High School invited us to the girls’ dormitories where cold showers and sewage leakage are the order of the day. The girls said they risk getting diseases because of the poor living conditions.

quotWe are not even supplied with toilet paper, so we just use ordinary paper and sticks which clog the toilet,quot one of the girls said. quotOur last toilet paper supply was last year.quot

Most of the toilets were clogged and not in working order when The Namibian visited the resting rooms. Pupils also said that because some classrooms do not have bulbs, they are forced to study in the dark.

Stagnant water in the shower rooms, dirty walls and mirrors reflect the poor hygienic conditions the girls are exposed to everyday.

quotAs a result of the clogging of the showers, we are forced to use basins to bath since the showers are a health hazard and some of us have been infected,quot explained another girl.

FEEDING TIME WITH NO CUTLERY

At Mokganedi Tlhabanello High School, supper is served at 17h30 at the dining hall where pupils queue up for two slices of bread, fish and a cup of coffee.

Those who do not have plates put their bread on the dirty wooden tables, while those without cutlery have to use their hands to eat.

The pupils complain that these meals are hardly enough to keep them full, especially in the mornings when they have to concentrate on lessons.

quotThe food here is tasteless and cold and even though this is the case, it is hardly enough to make us full. We live like prisoners,quot a pupil told The Namibian.

Pupils also said the kitchen staff does not wear gloves when handling food, which could expose them to diseases.

The school principal, Katunaa Kavari, declined to comment, referring questions to the Omaheke regional educational director, Pecka Semba who showed The Namibian a letter from Fischer Primary School dated 30 May 2014, which pleaded with government to look into the hostels’ situation in the region.

quotThe hostel dormitories are dilapidated, water leaks into the learners’ sleeping rooms from the bathrooms. We have some electrical faults in the lights, which need urgent fixing for the safety of our learners,quot reads part of the letter.

The letter also said the school had to rely on outside donors to fix some of the broken equipment.

NOT ENOUGH RESOURCES

Semba admitted that the hostel conditions remained a challenge, despite the region being one with a very low learner population.

quotWe currently have more than 20 000 pupils, but in terms of its vastness, resource allocation and the scattered schools, we have to drive hundreds of kilometres to each school,quot he said.

He also said the schools need much more resources than what the Ministry of Education allocates.

quotThis financial year, we were allocated N$4 million for maintenance of all the 19 hostels, which is not enough,quot he said.

He said the number of submissions from different schools urging his office to address the deplorable hostel conditions were piling up on his desk.

Semba also said many of the hostels are faced with a crisis of food that was rotting because of long periods of storage and that despite government paying N$1,5 million per month to caterers, pupils were still starving.

quotWe are still investigating why this is the case,quot he said. quotBut we are addressing these issues as a government to cover every school. We cannot address all the issues facing every school all at once. It takes time.quot

He said teachers’ housing was currently receiving a large chunk of the budget allocation, and that the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia was busy assisting government to renovate the hostels.

Semba also said government has allocated N$3,5 million to replace the old sewage pipes at all the schools. quotWhen resources become available, we have to prioritise, so we cannot attend to all the issues immediately.quot

Despite all these challenges, Semba says he believes there have been a lot of improvements since independence. quotovernment has built over 13 schools in the region and two more are on the way.quot

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Latest comments

I stayed in a hostel in the 80’s, we did not have cleaners then, it was our responsibility to keep the hostel clean, there were random inspections done and beware if a piece of paper was found on the floor, it was so clean, you could eat from the floor.. – Mwadhina | 2014-06-23 07:44:00 || Comment id: 42264

Pupils should also keep school properties as their own belonging in order to last longer – riccoh | 2014-06-23 06:59:00 || Comment id: 42257

As a father of many decades and a life-long educator, I am heart-broken to read of these conditions. Freedom Fighter (see below) asks an important question: What is the secret (to having good learning and living conditions for students)? Part of the answer is, of course, funding for materials. I think another part is esprit de corps: an enthusiasm, pride, ingenuity and commitment on the part of school administrators, teachers and pupils to improve their learningliving environment and once improved, to maintain its good condition. Are there some parents who live near enough to volunteer their time to help improve the schools? Government is an appropriate place to submit requests for upgrading. But often government is slow and encumbered by distractions and competing priorities. The willing hearts of parents, on the other hand, may move at lightning speed. Aluta. – Timothy Guile | 2014-06-23 06:59:00 || Comment id: 42256

Freedom Fighter you are spot on, the biggest problem Namibia has is nobody is accountable for anything. I would believe these hostels were in a very good condition then and they are as they are now because nobody cares down there in Omaheke. How would the ministry be looking after doors being stolen and windows being broken is that not the responsibility of the school itself and the community? If everything was there but old, one can then ask government to replace but not steal and vandalise and then blame government, when are we going to standup and act like individuals who care. Private hostels indeed do not have these kind of things because they take care of their own properties and never blames it on anyone. – Mafia | 2014-06-23 07:09:00 || Comment id: 42254

Nahas created this,Nangolo couldn’t help either…R.I.P Dr Abraham,people’s minister,you went too soon…. – Clexane 40mg | 2014-06-23 06:55:00 || Comment id: 42253

I agree with the anonymous teachers that a greater part of the so called deterioration of school buildings, hostels and equipment, is the result of gross vandalism and carelessness – party due to lack of supervision by the teachers and education and home. Do yourself a favour and do investigation at private schools and hostels – you will be surprised to observe to what extent their properties are looked after. What is the secret ? – Freedom Fighter | 2014-06-23 06:41:00 || Comment id: 42251

Total article comments: 6

Source : The Namibian