WINDHOEK – Learners at the St Joseph’s High School, or Döbra, some 17 kilometers outside Windhoek, on Friday boycotted classes demanding the reinstatement of 13 students who were suspended last week.
The students were suspended from the hostel for allegedly triggering a food riot in the dining hall.
The learners also demanded the reinstatement of 47 students who were dismissed from the hostel last year for allegedly throwing stones at two hostel fathers’ houses.
The learners blocked the hostel manager, Willem Lukas Hans, at the main gate at around 06h30 threatening to harm him should he enter the premises.
The situation caused a stir and the police as well as education inspectors were called in.
By Friday noon, the situation looked calm but learners were still hanging around and making their demands.
The head boy of the school, Scott Mutilife, who spoke on behalf of the learners said they held a peaceful demonstration to air their unhappiness over the 13 suspended learners (both girls and boys) for apparently starting a food fight in the dining hall by throwing food and cups around.
They are also unhappy about the 47 learners who were dismissed last year from the hostel for vandalising the hostel fathers’ homes.
“We want the 47 learners back in the hostel. Currently, they are commuting from Windhoek and Okahandja. They are spending a lot of money. They spend N$100 per day, which is equivalent to N$3 000 per month. These learners’ academic performance has dropped since they were suspended from the hostel,” the head boy charged.
The learners want all suspended pupils to return to the hostel before they sit for their external examinations.
The learners denied having instigated any food fight in the dining hall.
“That evening, the learners attempted a food fight, but it did not happen. Then the hostel fathers said the 13 learners must go home for causing a food fight,” Mutilife said.
The learners also accused the hostel management of failing to comply with the code of conduct issued to each learner residing in the hostel.
“The code of conduct clearly states that you can not expel a learner without consulting his/her parents first. The hostel fathers do not follow these rules, except expel learners. It also states that a learner must have committed an offence at least three times before being suspended. But we get suspended even for one offence,” the head boy fumed.
One of the suspended learners, Sedrick Hindjou, said he was dismissed for apparently “blocking a cup” that was thrown at him by another learner.
“Then they said I started a fight. We were more than 300 in the hall but they only suspended 13, is that fair?” he wanted to know.
The hostel manager said they have reviewed the code of conduct saying the old one was too rigid.
“The new one is more democratic. The offences are now categorised in three phases. Hostel fathers and mothers can deal with phase one and two issues. And phase three is where we get the involvement of the hostel board before we send the learners home,” he explained.
Hans said there would be a meeting soon between the hostel management and the parents of the 13 suspended pupils. He could not comment on the 47 learners, saying their case was with the board of governors.
However, he called on learners to stop food fights in the hostel.
Laurentia !Gaoses, education inspector for Khomas Region’s Cicuit 2, together with the school principal, Elfrieda Masule, gathered the learners in the hall on Friday.
!Gaoses urged learners to be disciplined and concentrate on their studies.
“We are trying to improve results and can not misuse any minute of our time. We fully understand your concerns in the hostel. It is being addressed fully at the higher level. Since it is a hostel issue, why should we abstain from attending classes?” she remarked.