Pupils squat in school backyards

July 29, 2015, 7:23am

Pupils squat in school backyards

SOME children attending schools in the Zambezi region are staying in tents pitched up in the backyards to avoid walking long distances to their villages.
The schools, Kasheshe Combined School and Maemeko Combined School, situated on the outskirts of Katima Mulilo, have no hostel facilities to house pupils, some of whom live more than 10 kilometers away. 
This comes after the ministry of education recently came under fire following reports from Kunene region that 167 learners were sleeping under trees at a school situated about 120 km from Opuwo on the road to Epupa Falls. Early this year the ministry also said it was unaware of the situation at Mpacha Primary School, about 15 kilometres south of Katima Mulilo, which only had one tent to accommodate all 43 learners, the principal and teachers.
Some poverty hit pupils from the Kasheshe Combined School who spoke to The Namibian say they are forced to brave the cold nights in the tents because they are unable to make the 10-or-more kilometre walk to school daily. 
A learner, who shares her small tent with two others, spoke of the freezing and windy nights they have to endure in the tents. 
“Sometimes I do not feel safe because we take showers in makeshift bathrooms so we risk being raped out here,” said Grade 10 learner Beauty Silewa (16). 
Silewa said they have to go out and beg for food after school as the school is not responsible for providing them meals. Another Grade 10 pupil Corinthians Kampomboro (18) says they cannot use candles to study in the evening because they fear the tents might catch fire. 
The school says at least three learners sleep in discomfort as they are forced to share one small tent and survive on one meal per day.
The Namibian has established that most of the rural schools in the region do not have hostel facilities, forcing pupils to walk long distances or erect tents at their schools to avoid coming late to school. 
Learners also use the nearby bush to relieve themselves as the only toilet on the school premises has been rendered dysfunctional. 
About 70 Grade eight to 10 learners at the school of 370 sleep in tents. 
Kasheshe school principal Gabriel Muleta, admitted that the situation is not ideal for the children, but said the school has been requesting for the construction of hostel facilities from the regional education office with no response. 
“The parents bought the tents for their children and those who cannot afford tents are forced to walk long distances from home to school every day, and often arrive very late for classes,” said Muleta.
“We are now forced to come up with community hostels and have purchased 100 sheets of corrugated iron to build a hostel at a cost of N$42 000,” he said. 
He said the school is still trying to get the ministry's support to transport the iron sheets. The school was allocated N$31 000 this year under the Universal Primary Education programme.
Muleta said the school runs a feeding programme that only offers a little porridge to the learners for breakfast. “The rest of the day learners must find their own food and sometimes they search for food in the rubbish dumps,” he said. 
Muleta said some of the pupils are from the San community and often drop out of school due to hunger and exhaustion from the long walks to school. Already, seven pupils have dropped out of school this year, he says. 
The ministry of education's spokesperson Johanna Absalom said the ministry through the directorate of education, arts and culture in the Zambezi region has already provided building materials needed for the construction and development of the community hostel at Kasheshe Combined School. 
“The learners have put up tents in the vicinity of the school so that they are close to school to ensure that they fully participate in revision lessons offered in preparation for examinations,” she said.

The Namibian