San Students Claim Neglect

ABOUT 20 students from marginalised communities are living in deplorable conditions at the Vredehof flats in Eros, Windhoek, which were rented out for them by the San Development Programme (SDP) .

The Namibian visited the two flats on Friday, where the students, mainly from Ovatue, Ovatjimba, Himba, San and Ovazemba tribes have been staying for about four years.

The students are all attending tertiary institutions, including the University of Namibia (Unam), the Polytechnic of Namibia and International University of Management (IUM) where they are enrolled in different programmes.

About 10 students share a one-bedroom flat. They sleep on the floor on torn mattresses and get their water from a fire extinguisher hose. Two students, one from each flat, have moved onto the balconies because the flats are overcrowded.

The doors and some windows are broken, while the floors are covered with grime.

The broom closets have been turned into wardrobes, filled to the brim with shoes, clothes and books.

The students cook on a hot plate in a small kitchen where The Namibian saw dirty dishes scattered around. The toilets, which both do not flush, from part of the bathrooms. One of the bathrooms does have water.

One of the students, who declined to give his name, was preparing to take a bath in flat 7B. He was pulling the fire extinguisher hose through a bathroom window to run some cold water into the tub.

Aleka Fase (37), a final year student at IUM, said they each receive an allowance of N$1 300 per month with which they buy toiletries, food and pay for taxis to and from school.

He also said attempts to get assistance from the SDP in the Office of the deputy Prime Minister, have been in vain.

The SDP was set up in 2005 by the former deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amadhila to address the plight of the marginalised communities.

“We have tried to endure and make do with what we have but it is hard to focus on school. During Dr Amadhila’s era, things were different. She took special interest in our well-being,” said Fase.

Dennis Amunyengua, a first year student at the Polytechnic said he has a hard time concentrating on his school work because of the noise from the other students he is forced to share the one room with.

Business administration student Muyo Mushe (20) claimed that one of the officers in charge of the fund told them that they were lucky to have a chance to even wear underwear.

“We are even scared to visit our own offices because people at these offices chase us away while telling us that we are lucky to even have underwear and that we should not complain,” said Mushe. “If I am not in a conducive environment to study, I will fail and who will pay for my supplements? They will say I am not serious but how can I concentrate in this overcrowded place?”

Ironically, a letter from the deputy Prime Minister’s office sent to the students last year in March acknowledged that the challenges the students were facing, contributed to the high failure rate.

The letter also pointed out that there had been delays in their school fee payments, leading to some of them not writing their exams. As a result, the letter further said, the students had to repeat their classes.

Some of the students also wrote to the deputy PM’s office in November last year reiterating the need for the fund to be run by the San people because they understand their needs better. They also pointed out that it was important that they should be involved in the process of decision making to address the accommodation problems.

The students wrote another letter on 7 August, requesting an audience with the deputy PM to discuss accommodation, allowances, and the administration of the programme. This was the third letter written by the students.

They also pointed out that the former deputy PM, Amadhila had their welfare at heart and took special interest in their development and ensured that marginalised communities are integrated into the mainstream Namibian economy.

According to the students, Amadhila had rooms rented for the students and houses were availed to ensure that they had enough space to study and enjoy their privacy, a privilege that was stopped when the new deputy PM took over.

Amadhila last week said she could not comment since it was not within her mandate, and urged that all queries should be forwarded to those who are running the programme.

The deputy director in charge of the SDP, Gerson Kamatuka, denied that the students have been living in deplorable conditions for a long time, saying he had visited the facilities last week and there was water.

He, however, accused the students of violence and vandalism, saying they abused alcohol and damaged what was provided for them.

“We are looking at incentives and ways we could get them better accommodation but this plan will only fall into place next year. We will get additional flats and get them rooms at the institutions of study,” said Kamatuka.

Kamatuka pointed out that the number of students interested in education are increasing which is why they do not have enough accommodation.

“It is a good thing that more of them are interested in education. It shows we are doing something good,” said Kamatuka.

Source : The Namibian