Abolition of UPE will affect Otjivero negatively – principal

Omitara-The principal of Otjivero Primary School is worried that if Universal Primary Education (UPE) is abolished the overall development of the school and progression of learners will be negatively affected.

Rebecca Heita on Monday said the school has already been badly affected by the government's budget cuts amidst the ongoing economic challenges facing in the country.

Last year, the school received about N$124,000 for school development, but this year that was cut to N$80,000, Heita said. We really did not have a school development fund and when UPE was introduced it was a big help, she said.

She further explained that before the abolition of compulsory contributions to the school development fund, parents were asked to pay N$50 per annum, but half of the parents who had children at the school could not afford to pay even that.

We are really hurt to hear that it will be terminated, said Heita, adding that they will be forced to depend on 'Good Samaritans' for financial and other kinds of assistance. Maybe if UPE is terminated we will go back to them, said Heita, also mentioning that there was a specific sponsor who had bought them copy machines, ink toner and basic items needed at the school.

The Namibian newspaper reported in August that the Swapo Party Central Committee was divided over the issue of free education. Education Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has since said that the school development fund would not be abolished.

Furthermore, school hostels built with the assistance of the Namibian-German Special Initiative remain unoccupied this year, despite the urgent need to accommodate learners at the school. The Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme was a multi-sectoral rural development initiative by the National Planning Commission.

She said the hostel was to accommodate vulnerable learners. It was built to accommodate at least 196 of the 365 learners.

Heita noted that it was difficult to maintain the hostel considering that learners have to be fed and there must be beds, electricity and other basic amenities.

Unfortunately, the school hostel is not open, because government says it doesn't have money. It is really unfortunate because it could have kept learners at school, Heita noted. She said the learners can be better monitored and controlled at the hostel compared to their homes, many of which are headed by the elderly and children.

The community of Omitara is so poor that many learners at the school only eat once a day and that is the meal provided through the government's school feeding scheme. Heita also said the tough circumstances have forced many learners to not return to the school in the afternoon to study.

Many of our learners do not stay with their parents. The grannies are bringing them up. Sometimes we even struggle to get birth certificates and we end up registering some children without birth certificates, because we can't watch children in the community not going to school.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia