St Boniface College: a model of inclusivity in an elitist society

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About 30 km east of Rundu Town, the capital of Kavango East Region, lies Shambyu Roman Catholic Mission at the village of Utokota. The now famous St Boniface College is situated on the grounds of Shambyu Roman Catholic Mission.

During the weekend of August 4-6, Shambyu Roman Catholic Mission ground was a hive of activity, where two notable events took place. One was the funeral of a well-known resident of Utokota village and the other was the pre-admission test of Grade 10 learners for next year.
I happened to be at the pre-admission tests.

As I was walking on the well-ordered and neat grounds of the school, several themes came to my mind. These included the significant contribution of the Roman Catholic Church to social and economic progress in Namibia, parents doing their best in search of hope and a future for their children, St Boniface College being a model of inclusivity in an elitist society, and the faculty of the school consisting predominantly of non-Namibian nationals.

The significant contributions of the Roman Catholic Church to social and economic progress in Namibia: Whatever achievements St Boniface College can boast about, such as consistently being the top achiever in Grade 10 and Grade 12 results in Namibia, has to be seen within the context of the presence of the Roman Catholic Church in Namibia.
The school is deeply engrained in the Catholic Church dogma and belief system. Credit has to be given to those, living and deceased, who originally coined the idea for a school that, within its 19 years of existence, became famous and attained the status of excellence.

It was encouraging to observe that despite these times of economic downturn, prudent fiscal discipline and tightening of belts, parents, both rich and poor (although I’m not sure about the poor part based on the car models on display that day), are still in search of hope and a better future for their children.

The parents who brought their children that day exemplified the belief that investment in education might still be one of the most viable investments. The human soul yearns for goodness, notwithstanding in what form and shape that goodness comes. In this case, goodness is epitomised by a school that could be an exemplar of what the world is supposed to be.

I could count at least, ten languages being spoken on the grounds of St Boniface College that day. They included English, Afrikaans, Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, Lingala, Shona, Lozi, Rumanyo, Thimbukushu and Rukwangali. There could have been more.

The diverse languages one could hear that day signifies the inclusive nature and international stature that the school has assumed. In these times of elitist and exclusive tendencies, tribalism and intolerant behaviour, it was refreshing to observe the oneness and togetherness of the human race.

One wishes though that the school could do more to accommodate the marginalised and the poorest of the poor in society. I do not know how, but everything is possible where there is hope.

Of the views expressed above, the most troubling is that the teaching faculty of the school predominantly consists of non-Namibian nationals. I could observe that the majority of teachers on duty that day seemed to be (based on the vernaculars they spoke) from Zimbabwe and the religious sisters from India. I could not notice a single teacher from Namibia.

These observations were troubling. Why should it be that the faculty of a model school of excellence is entirely from outside Namibia? Does it imply that good school results and performance means having an international faculty?
Does it suggest something about the level of and quality of the Namibian workforce? If the foregoing is yes, what does this tell us about Namibia’s human resource development 27 years after independence?

* Matthias Ngwangwama is from Kavango East Region and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. E-mail: mngwangwama@gmail.com

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