Farm School Honours Spanish Queen

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By Michael Liswaniso QUEEN SOFIA Just more than 75 kilometers’ drive from Outjo to Otavi in the Otjiwarongo district, lies the Queen Sofia resettlement farm, which houses 50 resettled families. The project is named after Queen Sofia of Spain – the sponsor of the resettlement project. The Queen Sofia of Spain Primary School is the only sole educational school at the farm, having grades one to six. In an interview, the school principal Katrina Axuhe Aboas said the school’s learning environment is good. “The environment itself is a typical farm life but the learning environment of the school is a genuine one,” said the school head. Plans are afoot, she said, to push the school’s grades from six to seven next year so that learners for the first time can sit for their grade seven external examinations. Aboas said most residents of the nearby farms enroll their children at the school, adding that the school’s numbers have been increasing annually. The school started in 2002 with only 43 learners. In 2003, the figure rose to 77 while in 2004 it stood at 126. In 2005, the number grew to 156 and this year it has 198 learners. “There were only two teachers in 2002 but now we have six teachers coming from different regions,” said the principal. English is the official second language at the school while Oshindonga and Khoekhoegobab are the prominent first languages taught and used. Because of agricultural projects being undertaken at the farm, the main subject offered is agriculture. Aboas says water remains an obstacle because it is pumped from underground by means of equipment that consumes a lot of fuel. In addition, the only water storage tank is too small to supply the whole school population, resulting in water shortages hence the need to always resort to other water sources. “If we have a good water source it would boost agricultural projects and the cleanness of the school. The maintenance of all the diesel equipment here at the school and at the dam is also a critical problem,” she said. There is only one clean water source – the underground water via a generator. It is only opened twice a week because of exorbitant operational costs. Cooking water is drawn from the same water source at the school whereas water for other domestic purposes is drawn from a nearby dam that is two kilometers outside the school but within the boundary of the farm. The school’s pass rate is relative, said Aboas. “I cannot say that the failure rate is high nor is the pass rate but at least it is relative or rather balanced.” Two other problems that haunt the school are the unavailability of a mobile phone network and having to do with rationalised electricity from a temporal solar energy plant. “We really want to give full computer classes but electricity is a big problem.” The school boasts four computers that were donated by the Spanish Embassy last year. It also has two informal hostel dormitories for boys and girls. A total of 86 learners are housed therein – 42 girls and 44 boys, with two outside separate toilets. Even though the hostel is an informal one, learners have to cough up N$100 each term for accommodation and meals plus N$50 for a school caretaker. Though these are the set standards, only a few learners can afford the accommodation and meal fares leaving the school with little room to manoeuvre in order to purchase hostel meals. A school development fee of N$45 is payable by all learners annually. Due to the increasing number of learners each year, there have been calls from the school management and board as well as Government to build formal dormitories. The resettled families have been living on the farm since 2002 while others have been there as early as 1999. Each resettled family on the farm was given eight cattle, eight goats and a proper two-bedroom housing structure under the Government’s resettlement programme. Previously, the 21 102-hectare farm had no unifying name. It was only known by its small sectional units that divide it – Michael, Elf, Tsumis, Dwight and Nimitz. The farm is now named after Queen Sofia of Spain (first lady), wife of the current King, Juan Carlos of Spain. Honour was given to the Spanish Queen in recognition of the Spanish government’s vital role in the whole resettlement programme of the farm with regard to sponsorships and other developmental projects.