Rural Schools Underutilised


By Surihe Gaomas OTJIPERONGO While there’s always a big rush every year to find a place especially for learners at schools in the urban areas, rural schools on the other hand are under-utilised. It is very common to hear about the headache of limited school places for hundreds of learners in the main cities and towns, while on the other hand there is a call for more learners in the remote schools of the country. One such school that’s experiencing this problem is the Otjiperongo Junior Secondary School near Omatjete in the Erongo Region that currently accommodates only 105 learners. Expressing this concern, acting Principal Frikkie Cilliers told New Era that during previous years, the school had 350 learners. That number has dropped close to 100 now. “This is a big school with all the facilities from Grade 8 to 10, but the numbers of learners coming to this school is becoming less”, said Cilliers adding that there are contributing factors to this dilemma. It turns out that although the school has enough classrooms and hostel facilities, many parents in the area are not so keen to enrol their children at the school. “Parents are seeing the problems we have especially with the water. Fortunately, this year we had a very good rainy season, but there are times we frequently run out of water, which has to be collected at nearby settlements at Otjihorongo or Omatjete,” said the acting principal adding that this is but just one of the many problems they face. Sometimes, the lack of electricity makes the teaching process and hostel activities difficult. For now this situation has been resolved, as the school has its own electricity generator and water tank. In light of the fact that the school, which was established 14 years ago, is under-utilised, the principal and teachers are urging the general public and community to enrol their learners in rural areas at the beginning of the year. Speaking at the recent donation of a photocopier and fax machine to the school from Old Mutual, Erongo Regional Education Director John /Awaseb said the equipment will go a long way towards assisting teachers to provide quality education in rural areas as well. “Teachers are the role players of education for our learners. Most rural schools don’t have a voice and are not recognised or seen and as a result many of them go to urban schools”, said /Awaseb. For a long time, poor performance by learners especially in rural areas has been a topical issue compounded by the lack of facilities. /Awaseb therefore encouraged partners in both the public and private sector to assist rural schools in order to improve the quality of education in the regions. Another challenge facing the school at Otjiperongo is the lack of qualified teachers and educational facilities. “Qualified teachers don’t like to come and work in remote areas and there’s also only one shop around here,” added teacher Asser !Naruseb echoing the acting principal’s sentiments. Currently, there are only five teachers that cater for all the three different grades at the junior secondary school. It is apparent that the school is not being utilised to its full capacity, leaving some classrooms empty, with broken windows and doors. Some of the buildings at the school are in urgent need of renovation. “For now the boys’ hostel is fully renovated, but the girls’ side needs to be renovated as well. I cannot now place the girls in the boy’s hostel, because the toilet facilities are not made for them “, said Cilliers. He called on parents to show more interest in their learner’s education by attending the regular parents’ meeting at the school. “We need the parents’ input for the nomination of a new school board and no parents have turned up to give their input,” added the Principal.