Pupils Languish in Wilderness

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

HELENA

Pupils of the primary school here are still in the wilderness as far as hostel accommodation is concerned after efforts at building them a hostel stopped mid-way when the Tunga Tunga building company disappeared, later being declared bankrupt and leaving construction work in an abandoned progress.

The community collected N$60 000 and the German Embassy facilitated N$111 000 for the building of two hostel blocks, one for boys and one for girls, toilets and a dining hall. However, to date only one block and a toilet have been completed halfway.

With only N$58 of the total funds remaining there seems no possibility of building the other block, toilet and dining hall.

In fact, the best the school can settle for now is to use the remainder of the funds to try and complete the half-completed block and toilet.

According to Otjombinde Constituency Councillor Mati Ndjoze, the building material has already been bought from Bargain Supply in Gobabis – the problem now being their transportation here.

Meanwhile, pupils here, predominantly San children, have been sleeping under squatter conditions in corrugated iron makeshift houses on bare sand floors.

Hostel accommodation is however not the only problem the school has been grappling with. When New Era visited the school recently it had been without its only source of power for a month. The tale of its power engine, sent to the Ministry of Works in Gobabis for repairs, is hard to follow with different versions as to what progress was being made in its repair.

Was it in Gobabis? Windhoek?

Neither of the two teachers at the school, Emencia Hangero-Hoveka, the principal, and Ruth Tjivava, could give a coherent report about the progress in its repair.

Apparently it was in Windhoek where it was opened by the Reflex company that forwarded a quotation for its repair to the Ministry of Works.

By the time New Era was at the school the necessary papers had presumably not been done for the company that was to repair it to start. This is not the first time.

It’s been a stop-go affair for the school with regard to the generator that provides lighting.

Ordinarily, the school relies on open fire for cooking meals for the pupils. Not that it is much of a meal. Porridge for breakfast, porridge for lunch, porridge for dinner. Porridge, nothing but porridge has been the nutritious lot of the pupils, courtesy of the Ministry of Education’s school feeding programme.

And what a strict ration the school gets having to use by order of the Ministry only one 12,5 kg of a mixture of maize meal, salt and milk powder and sugar.

Water is also a struggle for the school that relies on the local borehole. Getting water from this borehole depends on the moods and whims of the villagers given the absence of a permanent borehole attendant.

Too often it has found contributing diesel for running the borehole in return for water being instead usurped to run the engine for water consumption for the whole community. They are at times compelled to beg passersby with cars to help them fetch water from neighbouring villages.

The teachers hope for the appointment by the Government of a permanent water point attendant, at least for the sake of the school. This is because they think getting a borehole of their own for the school is daydreaming.

The precarious situation in which the school finds itself has rendered it near to desertion with parents opting for the more enviable Traugott Kandorozu Primary School at Lister, about 60 kilometres away.

As a result, compounded by the seasonal attendant nature of the San children, children from different grades (one and two) are being taught in only two of the classes with the other two unused.

However, some parents, especially the ones in the catchment area of Helena, have been finding the distance too far for them and their children, that they have opted to endure the harsh conditions of Helena.

This means some parents having to set up camp away from their homesteads to provide shelter as well as supervision to their children. Compared to the living conditions of the San children at this school, these prove to be homes away from homes.

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