Hostel superintendents are school managers’ whipping boys

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I should express my honest opinion on the unfortunate situation that has befallen many superintendents in many Namibian school hostels. This bedeviled situation has opened up the proverbial Pandora’s box that sees learners engage in immoral practices of all sorts.

It has in the same light reduced hostel infrastructure to embarrassing conditions. I pray for this discourse to secure audience with the Minister of Education, Art and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa. It still begs for the attention of all leaders in the education sector. This piece propounds the root cause of unacceptable conduct associated with many schoolgoing children residing in public school hostels.

I am referring to the consequences of a policy that sees teachers appointed to superintendent positions for a renewable three-year term. This policy has actually spelled unbearable penury for teachers appointed to serve their schools as superintendents.

Many of them fail to run these institutions due to needless meddling activities from school managers. Yes, they succumb to pressure as their future in such positions lies squarely in the hands of school managers and their management teams.

The reasoning behind it all is that it is a delegation and therefore all management conduct schools embark on are to be pursued by hostels to the letter. In most cases, the diversity in the reality on the ground – at both the hostel and the school – does not inform the strategies guiding the activities of the two institutions.

The “honourable” school managers meddle in administrative activities of superintendents to an extent that control of hostels is lost as superintendents are drawn into servicing the ideas of their overpowering “generals”.

The poor teachers fail to resist the pressure as these “honourable” school managers brag to be the “bosses and chiefs” of schools. They have the power to recommend expulsion of both superintendents and teachers from their positions and even see them lose out on their hostel residence.

True or false, these braggadocios create such an impression and manage to drive many staff members from the teaching profession.

Hostels have turned into battle grounds between hawkish school “generals” and the teachers, who reside in these institutions. Some superintendents fail to see off their tenure and rather quit these positions, refusing to be turned into stooges.

These teachers are told what to say and how to say it. This equally means they are also told what to think; surely an act of mental subjugation or colonisation of one’s mind!

The fact that they are not allowed to think through issues on their own is very unfortunate. They are “amen sayers”, that spend their terms dancing to the dictates of their school managers. I agree it is the head teachers’ delegated responsibility, but interference by school managers stifles creativity and turns superintendents into command worshippers, that fail to reason outside the box.

Unfortunately, our supervisors at regional offices are oblivious to what is actually going on. They hardly show up at hostels, unless there is a crisis or a text message has surfaced in one of the local newspapers.

It is equally interesting how these plundering “honourables” easily enlist hostel officers based at regional offices. Hostels are quite dilapidated as those charged with liaising with hostel superintendents for maintenance activities collude with school “generals”.

The alliance is meant to sideline superintendents, who choose to do “what is right”, rather than do the so-called “right thing”. The whole syndicate has left hostels in an uninhabitable state. Superintendents’ voices are never heeded and numerous emotive letters sent to regional offices yield no results at all. All is meant to discredit so called stubborn superintendents and see them out with utter simplicity.

Water taps have been leaking for years. Toilets ooze dirtied water and its stench makes one wonder whether human beings reside in such places. The sewage system in general is stale and has been dysfunctional for years. Learners undertake cold showers even during the wintery times of the year.

The maintenance activities carried out at public hostels are themselves remarkable. Rogue companies swarm hostels to fix problems, but all results in zero improvement. Teachers residing in these places are blamed for it all. They suffer harassment at the hands of their supervisors on a daily basis and are even threatened with eviction.

Staff members who advocate modern managerial practices are subjected to a sizeable share of managerial chitchat or gossip. Their utterances of discontent, as regards prejudicial leadership conduct, are considered akin to treason.

They are labeled “spokespersons or instigators”. Yes, school management spends meeting-time discussing how these troublesome teachers should be handled. The teachers would then suffer victimisation and have to live with all sorts evil glares directed at them day in day out. School management actually turns into a band of ‘ill-wishers’, bent on frustrating progressive teachers.

* Silume Simataa is a high school teacher. He is a holder of BETD, BED (UNAM), English Honours, Masters of Leadership and Change Management (Polytechnic of Namibia).

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