No Water for Mangetti West School

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By Engel Nawatiseb MANGETTI WEST The /Khomxa Khoeda (Vulnerable People’s) Primary school in Mangetti West, about 50 km south of Tsintsabis settlement has been without sufficient water since its inception three years ago and consequently the learning environment is difficult for some San children. The acting principal at the school, Siglinda Uises told New Era that despite the construction of ablution facilities by the government, the lack of water supply to the school has created unhygienic conditions and disrupted the education process. She stressed that the situation cannot be allowed to continue, as it infringes on the right of the children to enjoy proper sanitation. “Government built us two toilets and washing basins but they are of no use although very new. We cannot use them at all. In fact, we (teachers) are teaching the children about water and sanitation but there is no water at all. It is a contradiction.” Uises said the school management attempted to plant some fruit trees on school premises so as to set up a feeding programme for the San children but that failed due to lack of water. “We could do a lot of vegetation if we had enough water to irrigate our crops. We have presently planted some seeds (maize) but they grow little at the mercy of the rain showers that we are currently receiving.” She appealed to government to explore the possibility of drilling a borehole to supply water to the school. According to Uises, most children do not wash before attending classes, something that cannot be blamed on either themselves or their parents. She told New Era that the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) provided the land on which the school was constructed but has refused to take responsibility for the school. NDC has provided water taps at selected spots at the village but this is not enough to cater for the needs of learners and the community at large. Another bottleneck, Uises noted, is the absence of a feeding scheme to cater for the “poor” learners who currently feed on wild berries and other wild fruit. She stressed that the village is predominantly inhabited by pensioners whose income is too little to feed their respective households. Uises stated that most learners abscond from classes and are roaming the bushes in search of wild fruits while classes are ongoing. “Families without any pensioner amongst them are suffering because there is no income at the end of the day. Somebody must come to our aid. The San children are academically OK but the support structures are virtually absent. I pity them so much, because the children lose concentration and what can we as teachers do when your command for attention in the classroom is ignored due to pressing hunger?” The school, she added, does not have the financial capacity to run a feeding programme. Learners are expected to commit N$2 per month to the school fund but to date only one learner has paid the amount in full. The school, with up to grade 6, enrolled 75 learners since January this year but is confronted by an escalating rate of school dropouts as a result of early pregnancies primarily at the ages of 13 years and below. The school authorities however confirmed that the Health Ministry’s Outreach programme is being introduced to the village but primarily focuses on the treatment of opportunistic diseases. Uises stressed that awareness about family planning and reproductive health amongst learners and community members needs to be raised in order to provide more information about the dangers related to HIV/AIDS. “We have examples of young mothers who have left school to look after their babies. The problems are just many and we need help.” It is further reported that most corpses at the village are being buried without any post-mortems being conducted because the police are only responsible for pensioners who are on government’s payroll. “Police simply refuse to drive the distance to collect the dead time and again. We (teachers) are taking the role of religious leaders to pray and bury the deceased.” Other problems include the lack of telecommunication networks and the provision of electricity at the school. “We cannot communicate to the outside world, we also cannot make any copies for learners or school administration. We can only read under moonlight at night, the bottlenecks are just too many. NDC managers have those facilities but are reluctant to share with us. We need government to intervene and make education smooth for all of us and our learners,” Uises pleaded.