Windhoek – In as much as it is a joy to pass on knowledge to children through education, Emgard Ngeama can never get used to teaching at the Katutura Hospital School.
With 30 years of teaching experience, Ngeama, who joined the Katutura Hospital School in 2015, says the most difficult part of her job is to work with enthusiastic, yet ill children.
Although not all the children admitted to the children’s ward are critically ill, seeing the little ones go through excruciating pain breaks her heart, even if “it is part of life”.
“It is not easy to work with them because they are sick. Sometimes you can see that they are in pain but they still make the effort to come for lessons,” said Ngeama in a recent interview with New Era.
Sorrowfully, Ngeama reminisced about a child who came from Khorixas last year.
“That child really wanted to learn but he was so sick. I saw him the Friday and the Monday when I came back to work; the nurse told me that he passed on over the weekend. It was really very sad for me because I did not have any contact with the parents,” she said, sharing on her work experience at the Katutura Hospital School.
The Namibia Association of Occupational Therapists started the Katutura Hospital School, which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, in 1999. Only children, who are in school, attend classes while to hospital.
Ngeama also shared that the children are generally very motivated to attend the classes that start just after 08h00 until 13h00.
Unlike normal schools, children at the Katutura Hospital School come and go depending on how long they are admitted in the hospital.
Also, the children attend classes depending on their schedule with the doctors and other health professionals.
Ngeama explained that the primary aim of the Katutura Hospital School is to ensure that the learners do not miss out much on their schoolwork while they are in the hospital.
“The learners like to come here because they get bored in the wards. They like to come and play with the toys too. They like to paint, read and listen to stories. Even if I tell them that school is out, they don’t want to go back to the wards,” said Ngeama, who spoke to the New Era team from her classroom that is in the children’s ward at the Katutura hospital.
She continued: “Sometimes I have to stay up to 15h00 to accommodate them. They want to spend more time in the class than in their rooms, it’s only those that are really in pain who stay in their rooms”.
The learners are grouped according to their grades. In most cases, the learners accommodated at the school are in Grades 1 to 7. Pre-primary school learners are accommodated and so are the older children in other grades.
The class size also depends on the children admitted and whether they are able to attend, based on their health.
“The longest a child has been here is for seven days this year. Every day we have new learners as long as children are admitted. They come from all over the country and we have the same syllabus as normal schools,” Ngeama explained. There are no school breaks, unlike at normal schools, she said. “The doctors come in and out so while we are busy, the nurse can come and call some children to be attended to by the doctors. Some have to go for physiotherapy, others have to see the doctor, others have to go for dressing and that’s why we don’t have breaks,” explained Ngeama.
Stressing on the children’s enthusiasm, Ngeama added that she barely has to beg the children who are well enough to come for lessons because “they come by themselves”.
“Normally, I only go and call the new ones who are not aware of the school. But the children who have been in the hospital longer tell the new ones that there is a school in the ward,” explained Ngeama.
Speaking on the impact the school has had on the children, Ngeama said many of those who come from rural areas benefit the most, especially in English and mathematics.
“When some of them come here they can’t even write their names or do simple mathematics, but after two or three days, you see the difference. Some stay longer, especially those who come from the Zambezi Region, they can stay up to 10 days because they have to wait for the bus to take them back,” she explained.
The learners are assessed through tests. In some instances, question papers are sent from the schools where the learners attend. “I do not really assess them that much because they have to go back to the regions,” Ngeama added.
She also does not recommend learners to pass to the next grade because “they don’t stay long with me. I just teach them and when its exams, I contact the school, supervise and send back them back”.
A woman whose granddaughter was admitted at the Katutura Hospital School said she was pleased that her granddaughter did not miss out much on school while in hospital.
“My granddaughter was hit by a car and had her foot amputated. I’m glad she is not missing out on school while she is here because she attends pre-primary school,” said Eveline Somses, who was admitted with her granddaughter after being transferred from Grootfontein.