OTJANDJAMWENYO – Many Ovahimba children in Ruacana Constituency in Omusati Region are not registered for formal schooling despite education being free.
Himbas are a pastoral nomadic community who primarily depend on their herds of cattle and goats as a means of survival, and some of them value their livestock more than education.
According to accounts by some of the Ovahimba children’s parents only two out of ten children irrespective of their gender are sent to school, while the rest are kept home to look after cattle.
Kalihona Ngoro a father of seven children says only two of his children go to school while the rest look after his cattle and goats.
“It does not matter whether it is a boy or a girl, they all have to look after animals. Girls look after goats while boys look after cattle,” said Ngoro.
Ngoro reasons there is no guarantee all the children will excel in school hence some children should stay home and look after his cattle and goats that he says is the major source of his livelihood.
“We have brothers that were sent to school while I was looking after cattle. After they completed school, they got jobs. Every time they come home they are broke and we have to bail them out with our money when we sell our cattle. And sometimes we slaughter goats whose meat we give to them to eat,” he explained.
He added that if all of them had gone to school no member of his clan would have any livestock which would imperil their existence.
Ngoro said at his homestead with over 30 children only nine attend school because of the reasons he explained.
His homestead consists of three rondavels plastered with cowdung where three families of over 50 people live, including Ngoro’s household with over 20 people, who are crammed into a single cowdung hut. Ngoro who is innumerate counted the number of people at his village using his fingers but he says he does not know the exact number of cattle and goats at his village, only saying “they are too many”.
“The total number of children is more than 50 but only nine of the 50 children attend school and the rest look after animals,” he said.
Constituency councillor Absta Iipinge said he is aware of the situation and his office is planning to start a literacy school in the area.
“Not only in the village you have visited, even in Onkumbiyarundu the situation is the same, people are not going to school. But we are planning to put a literacy school and a kindergarten in that area, so that the youth can attend school,” stated Iipinge.
Approached for comment the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, said his office is not aware that there are children who are not attending school.
He said government has done its best to avail free access to education hence he appealed to parents to send their children to school.
Attempts to get comment from the Omusati Regional Education Directorate drew a blank as no one was available for comment.