Otjiku Children Stranded

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By Wezi Tjaronda OKAHANDJA UNLESS Good Samaritans come to their rescue, school- going children of Farm Otjiku evictees and some children of San families that have settled at the old Okahandja swimming pool may find it difficult to attend school this year. The five Otjiku evictees have among them 17 school children, who attend primary and secondary schools in Otjiwarongo district, while the San families at the swimming pool have 15 children who are still at primary level between Grade 1 and Grade 4. After their retrenchment from Farm Otjiku last year, the families have been without an income and the few small livestock that they keep have been sold to buy basic food supplies for their households. Although the Ministry of Education has said time and again that children who cannot afford to pay school fees should be allowed to study, the Otjiku evictees have a different experience. “Even if we take letters to the schools, the teachers do not understand,” said Angelika Kondiuo who also has school children. She said the families had no money to pay the fees in one lump sum and time and again had requested to pay in instalments, something the teachers do not accept. “It was better when we were working, now we have nothing at all,” she lamented. When they were in the employ of the farm over a year ago, Kondiuo said, they could afford to pay all school related expenses of their children but now with the money they get from their livestock sales, the most urgent priority is food. “From the sales of the goats, we were thinking of paying school fees but now we have to buy food as well,” she lamented. Coupled with this, the children have to pay around N$30 each to get to their respective schools. Maria Kondiuo said the children need help to pay school fees as well as hostel fees. And for the 15 San children in Okahandja to get to school, they will need a letter from the welfare department which states that the children cannot afford to pay school fees. For them, they have not had many problems with fees as they usually get the letter from the governor’s office. The number of the school children has increased slightly this year because some are starting Grade 1, while others who dropped out of school last year will start again. According to Emma Gaingos, one of the caretakers of the 60 people that have settled at the old swimming pool, learners who used to go to a school at Ovitoto dropped out in the middle of last academic year because of the high transport costs of travelling to and from Okahandja.