For the past four years Katrina Aboas has slept behind a room divider with most of her 206 students under deplorable conditions, cramped into a dark makeshift hostel measuring some 30 square metres in total.
Now there is light at the end of this dark tunnel in the form of the Namibia-German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP), which will see a learner hostel and houses for teachers being built and completed within the next six months.
Katrina Aboas is the principal of David //Khamuxab Primary School, situated in the Outjo Constituency of the Kunene Region, some 95 km north-east of Outjo at the Seringkop government resettlement farm.
Her ordeal with the accommodation crisis at the school, which caters mainly for San children, is just one of many heart-rending tales from the almost surreal world of life on Farm Seringkop.
Entering through the gates at Seringkop is like stepping into another world: a world where time has stood still; a world where families don’t watch television; a world where students don’t possess cellphones; a world where adults hardly ever listen to the radio, due to lack of reception for modern day communication devices.
Teachers and learners at the school turned the classrooms and tents into accommodation facilities soon after it was officially opened in 2010 by then deputy prime minister Dr Libertina Amadhila. It was built for the Hai//Om San community’s children residing at Farm Seringkop, as well as San learners from the other four surrounding resettlement farms.
An emotional chief of the San in the area, Dawid //Khamuxab told New Era on Friday about the many challenges facing the five teachers and 206 San learners at the school.
He said Principal Aboas had been sleeping in a classroom for the previous four years before the Hai//Om Sanâ’s Traditional Authority Chief – after whom the school is named – could accommodate her in one of his palace’s rooms earlier this year.
But all the bad here is about to change to good, thanks to the generous support of the NGSIP’s initiative of more than N$7 million, which will see the new hostel and teachers’ quarters being completed within the next few months, while my house has already been renovated and the ablution blocks have been completed. It is indeed the most joyous day since the school was opened in 2010,” he said.
He was addressing the media during a field trip undertaken by the German embassy over the weekend to some of the NGSIP projects in seven regions, worth more than Euros 36 million.
Until the completion of the project, some female teachers will continue to sleep in classrooms, with one female teacher accommodated in a storeroom and a male teacher in a classroom.
A school matron and two cooks sleep in their self-made tents erected within the schoolyard, said the previously worried but now elated chief.
While things have changed slightly for the better with a mobile clinic now visiting the school regularly, there is still hardly any network coverage, there is no radio or television reception and all roads are impassable during rainy seasons.
“We’re still pretty much living in a forgotten world, where we have little or no contact and communication with the outside world,” the chief noted, while applauding the German initiative for bringing light into their lives.
The 102 heifers originally handed over to the Hai//Om San community as part of the NGSIP since its inception in 2012 have grown into more than 300 animals, which are distributed among the community farmers on a revolving scheme to reap the utmost benefits from these animals.
The programme managing committee under guidance of manager Matthew Goagoseb has been responsible for training of many farmers.
Christian Grün, head of cooperation at the German embassy, lauded the San for their outstanding farming skills and for even outshining participants in the programme in other regions.
“We will continue to empower the needy and very poor people of Namibia, especially those in remote areas and those who are in dire straits like the San,” he promised.
Teachers and pupils of the school told New Era that government has for years ignored their plight. They recalled high-powered government delegations visiting them in helicopters and making promises. “But nothing ever materialised until the NGSIP stepped in,” they said.
Asked by New Era to sum up her feelings on the progress of the NGSIP that is now visible to the community, Principal Aboas said: “This is the dawn of a new era for this San community.
“The first day of the best days of our lives starts now,” said an emotional principal, who has endured all kinds of hardships at the school over the past six years, but who clearly remains deeply committed to the task of educating the children of the San.