Alpha Combined School in Opuwo has been struggling with a blocked sewerage system for the past five years with no sign of help on the way from the Directorate of Education in the Kunene Region.
New Era visited the school on Monday where teachers described the blocked sewerage system as a thorn in the flesh of teachers and learners. The water supply has apparently also been interrupted, thus forcing teachers to buy water. Teachers explained that the entire sewerage system is old and needs to be replaced.
“Sanitation is a problem at the school and the hostel. Our learners are using the bush to relieve themselves. We also have pit latrines for learners and teachers, but that is no good because it doesn’t flush,” said Mashinda Mathews Mashinda, head of department at the school.
There are flushing toilets at the school, but they are not utilised because of the water problem, Mashinda explained. He then took this reporter on a tour of the premises. The stench near the pit latrines was unbearable.
Mashinda and Ben Ndjai, the hostel superintendent, said the matter has been reported to the Directorate of Education in Kamanjab. It was also reported to the former governor of the region, however, nothing has changed as they still have to live with the situation, said the concerned teachers.
“We wrote letters to the director of education [in the Kunene Region] concerning the sewerage system. We later found out that our school is on the list of repairs, but it is not a first priority. Only the houses of teachers at the school will be attended to, but that does not make sense, because this is a serious problem and the school will suffer,” Mashinda remarked.
Lack of proper sanitation leads not only to the proliferation of disease, but can also create other problems, such as molestation or rape of female learners when they go into the bushes to relief themselves, Mashinda said, noting that fortunately no such thing has happened yet.
In addition, access to water is a problem at the school. Teachers fetch water from a tap in the learners’ bathrooms, Mashinda further said, noting that there are only three fucntioning taps (linked to water tanks) which the entire school relies on. The water supply is irregular and the teachers fear it might interfere with the already faulty sewerage system.
“I don’t know whether there is another school like this in Namibia, but the situation is really bad. Other schools also have problems, but this is a major problem. The school does not even have a fence to separate the two hostels, so we find boys running from the girls’ blocks,” Mashinda pointed out. He also mentioned maintenance problems, such as faulty classroom doors, which were replaced with doors from the toilets.
Grade 10 learner Tjambiru Uemukotora said the lack of proper ablution facilities at the school is a problem for him and fellow learners: “Sometimes we’re studying when nature calls. When we come back to our books, we’re distracted as the walking distance to relieve ourselves is far.”
When the Directorate of Education in Kamanjab was contacted yesterday to find out why nothing has been done about the problems at Alpha Combined School, Inspector Levi Musilika said: “I don’t know whether there is such a thing. I know there was something broken, but I took it up with maintenance. By now I thought it’s already been repaired”. He asked to be called back after 30 minutes, but did not answer his phone after several attempts to contact him.
Alpha Combined School has been in existence since 1990 and was previously used as a base of the South African army.