More than 200 schoolchildren are being accommodated in a dilapidated, overcrowded church building at Nkurenkuru.
The building, owned by the Elcin Church, is also unfenced which exposes the learners to possible abuse.
The facilities, which were built during the colonial era, accommodate learners in Grades 5 to 10 from different schools in and around Nkurenkuru. They were compelled to seek shelter at the church because there are no school hostels in the town.
The learners are mostly from destitute families who are required to fork out N$200 each. They are fed mainly plain porridge which is at times supplemented with either meat or cabbage. Since toilets at the school are not functioning learners use nearby bushes to relieve themselves.
“We all go to different schools and come from different villages and this is the only place that can accommodate us as all the schools in Nkurenkuru do not have hostel facilities. Most of us came to school here because the schools at our villages end at Grade 4 and so we need to come to Nkurenkuru to continue with upper classes,”said one Grade 8 learner who requested anonymity, fearing the pastor would expel him from the hostel for talking to the media.
When New Era approached the pastor in charge of the facility he accused the reporter of reporting lies and refused him permission to take photos of the dilapidated hostel.
But the journalist somehow managed to take the photos without the blessing of the irate pastor. He argued that the reason why children live in such squalor is because the government has not built hostels for learners at Nkurenkuru.
“You know the situation, since independence how many hostels did the government build in this part of the country?” said Ernesto Karuyeva the pastor in charge of the hostel.
When asked if the church has any plans to improve the situation the angry cleric refused to comment and instead chased the reporter out of his office, saying: “I belong to the church not the government, go, go to the ministry of education. The government must build hostels and we will close this church hostel so that the government can play its role. You can’t ask me about the conditions, go ask the government what they are doing about it.”
The squalid conditions under which the children live are not only confined to the ELCIN church hostel at Nkurenkuru but they have become typical as they also exist at Rupara village.
There is no hope the hostel will be renovated soon because over the past few years Elcin also seems to have been struggling to build a new church because of a lack of funds.
New Era could not get comment from the director of education as well as the education planner because they were busy in meetings at the time of going to print.