Education not only shapes the mind but the whole community and the passion to teach young children in one of the most forgotten areas in the Erongo Region surely has paid off for a teacher who ventured into an area where others simply won’t.
Gertrude Bull, a teacher who integrated herself into the Topnaar community along the Kuiseb riverbed 60 km from Walvis Bay, has taken the responsibility upon herself to educate the Topnaar, especially their children.
She established a pre-primary school that prepares children to become school ready and be on par with other learners around the country.
Despite the various challenges she encountered to make her dream a reality, Bull managed to establish the Arise and Shine kindergarten by teaming up with the Amos Meercat programme, an initiative by a group of women who train the spouses of farm labourers to become teachers and help their children become school ready.
The overall Amos Meercat pre-school project was started by Amos Namibia, an initiative focussing on the Namibia farming community, together with the Namibia LifeChange Centres Foundation (NLCCF), a non-profit organisation that aims to provide support services to other charitable organisations focused on alleviating the needs of the poor and doing community development work.
“I could see that early childhood development and pre-school education for school readiness was sorely lacking.
When I heard about the Amos Meercat programme on radio and the success those farm workers had with creating their own pre-schools, I knew I had to do something similar for our children. So we started presenting the Amos Meercat curriculum in a small shack,” explained Bull.
According to her, more children started attending classes and her family decided to build a small school building from waste material.
Thanks to her efforts a new classroom was built by NLCCF in partnership with NamGreenwood, a Swakopmund producer of wood plastic composite building material.
NamGreenwood supplied the building material for the walls and roof of the classroom, as well as the labour while SimonisStorm Securities provided paver bricks to create the flooring.
Building materials supplier Betcrete also contributed with windows and doorframes.
The new building will also be used as a coordination point for the !Khuiseb Arise and Shine Centre’s community development programme, which includes caring and feeding the elderly, and assisting and feeding orphans.
As part of the classroom inauguration Manica Group Namibia and United Fishing Enterprises donated dry food to the value of N$9 000.
About 17 children aged 3 to 6 were brought by their parents and according to Bull many of the children have to walk more than three kilometres to school.
“They are eager to attend school and we decided to provide meals for them because they walk so far. We approached various institutions for assistance, but very little help was forthcoming, however we continued to look for help,” she said.
The managing director of NLCCF, Schalk Walters, says the goal of the Amos Meercat project is to equip informal pre-schools that do not have access to any curriculum or formally trained teachers, with the necessary tools and assistance.
“In this way we can ensure that the learners are educationally ready when they enter Grade 1,” says Walters.children.