11 January 2013

Namibia: Heavy Rains Close Schools in the North

Photo: Hezron Ochiel/IRIN
File Photo of Children walking on submerged foot paths as a result of flash floods.

CLOSE to 600 pupils in the Omusati Region will have to be taught in tents when schools open next week, after several schools in the region were damaged by heavy rains and wind over the festive season.

In the Omusati Region alone, the education directorate said it would need at least N$3 million to repair damage caused to the Omagalanga Combined School and the Oshitutuma, Epya, Ouvale, Elondo and Omunkete primary schools.

"The damage was caused by the rains between Christmas and New Year. We carried out an assessment to establish the extent of the damage to these schools and altogether, 15 classrooms have been destroyed completely and will need to be rebuilt. The assessment revealed that we will need N$3 million in order for us to repair the damage," said Esther Anna Nghipondoka, the director of education in the Omusati Region.

Nghipondoka said with schools opening next week, the region was in a bit of a predicament as it does not even have enough tents to cater to all students of the affected schools.

"We will need 15 tents, and I think we only have about 12 in the region. The assessment report detailing the damage has been sent to the office of the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education and we are waiting on his office for assistance," Nghipondoka said.

Permanent Secretary Alfred Iilukena said his office was aware of the damage to several schools, including two in the Caprivi Region, and since this was only the beginning of the rainy season, there was no telling how much more damage would be caused.

"I know we are facing problems when it comes to our schools in the North, especially because most are constructed with wood and not iron, hence the damage in the case of the Omusati Region schools, and this is something we are looking into. We are looking into our budget to see how we can assist financially but right now, we may need to resort to setting up tents until we are able to reconstruct the school structures. Let's keep in mind that the situation is not only being experienced in the Omusati Region, but other regions too," said Iilukena.

He further said the ministry was aware there could be more damage awaiting many more schools in the northern regions due to the annual floods and asked for collaboration between teachers and pupils.

"We anticipate more floods are coming. Unfortunately this is nature and we can't blame anyone for the damage. We will however do everything possible to source funds to respond to the situation," he said.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Omusati Region, Sofia Shaningwa, has called on parents of children from the affected schools to remain calm while the government does what it can to address the situation.

"I would like to encourage our learners and parents to not be discouraged and to work together with the government in finding solutions to this problem. Let us assist one another," she said.

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