By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK DESPITE the fact that Namibia is among several countries that endorsed the “Education for All” principle, the country still lacks schools for mentally impaired people, some 15 years after Independence. Namibia has two schools for mentally challenged people, namely Dagbreek and Moreson, both in Windhoek. The Principal of Dagbreek School Klaas de Wet told New Era that the growing number of people who are intellectually impaired calls for an urgent need to establish schools for them. At least three percent of the Namibian population is mentally challenged. Despite society having a responsibility for drawing out the intrinsic abilities and creativity of these people, a large number of them especially those above the age of 18 find themselves at home and jobless. With a population of about 30 000 mentally challenged people in the country, not less than 10 000 are over 18 years of age. These people need to have skills that would allow them to survive in a society that is economically demanding. Dagbreek has an intake of 86 people aged between six and 18 years, while Moreson has 80 learners. The two schools are failing to accommodate all the learners who would be interested with enrolling at the schools. “I have 280 people on the waiting list, the school cannot accommodate everyone,” stated De Wet. The few that attend school at the two institutions usually later find themselves at home as there are no places established for them to continue enhancing their skills and further grow their potential. “There is a need for such centres where these people can be accommodated and have a sense of protection, find a way to become self-reliant,” added De Wet. Recognising the need, a centre that would enable those aged between 18 and 25 years to further enhance their skills was recently opened at Dagbreek. Unfortunately, the centre only has three learners at the moment due to lack of sufficient space. According to the school head teacher, by May this year, the centre would be moved to a bigger place where it would accommodate at least 12 learners. At the centre, learners would be taught various life skills such as needlework, paper recycling, making home decorations, cookery, laundry and hygiene. “We train them so that they can become domestic workers or even be institutional workers,” said De Wet. Compared to other countries in the region, De Wet says, Namibia still lags behind in terms of fulfilling what the “Education for All” mandate demands. De Wet lamented: “There are a lot of shortcomings. We lack facilities, no specialised equipment. Look at this, the two schools can only accommodate about 166 people out of the 30 000.” He proposes that more schools be built in the regions so that not every mentally challenged person has to come down to Windhoek for school. The two fully established schools have since last year been working on syllabuses for the learners and early January 2006, the implementation process started. He appealed to members of the public to donate items such as furniture and others that might help in the running of the centre that becomes fully operational in May.
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