23 January 2013

Namibia: No Stationery Delivered to Schools Yet

GOVERNMENT'S inability to deliver free stationery to primary schools has further widened the gap between the haves and have-nots. Pupils whose parents are able to buy stationery and books seem unaffected by the crisis but those who cannot afford it are either empty-handed or write in old school books if the school is unable to provide books from last year's surplus.

Many schools' response to the question whether they have received stationery has been, "not yet."

Most schools say they provided pupils with surplus stationery and books while awaiting on Government to deliver this year's promised learning tools.

Paul Damaseb, prinicipal of Eden Primary School in Okahandja, said some pupils' parents bought books for them. This eased the pressure of pupils not having anything to write in at school. Other pupils had to bring their old school books from, "just as long as they have something to write in".

Jakobus Apollus, principal at Mariental Primary School, said his school had still not received any books or stationery. "We are handing out the leftovers from last year. There are still children without any books or stationery. We have not received a list yet, I assume they [the ministry] will work on last year's order. Hopefully we will hear something from the ministry this week," said Apollus.

Despite Government's strict directive to schools not to expect parents to buy stationery, most schools had no choice but to join hands with parents to overcome the ministry's delay. "We are wasting time waiting on the ministry. Parents have been understanding and they have bought their children school books and stationery. When the other pupils who do not have any see their friends have books and pencils, to fill the gap, they themselves urge their parents to buy them the stationery," said Tutaleni Primary School principal Josef Damaseb in Walvis Bay.

He said some parents are trying to cop out of the responsibility of buying stationery for their children. "They have bought stationery and books over the years and now they don't want to. Surely, it is their children and their obligation. In the end, they are losing out," said Damaseb.

The Nara Primary School in Walvis Bay made headlines last year when the school, barely one year old, faced difficult circumstances with a lack of classrooms for 950 pupils. Many had to sit on the floor.

Nara's principal, Christine Gontes, told The Namibian that although the school has worked out a schedule for afternoon classes for some pupils, it is faced with a new burden of a lack of stationery and books. She said the school was forced to request parents to buy books and stationery for their children.

"Those who could not afford it, we gave them each a book from the little that was left from last year's surplus. They use one book for all subjects," she said.

About 300 pupils in the lower primary grades were without books and stationery, said Gontes.

The Teachers' Union of Namibia (TUN) president, Mahangora Kavihuhua, recently said that "the lack of a clear statement on when such funds or stationery will be made available is a sign that Government is disorganised as far as this free education issue is concerned".

The inspector of education for the Walvis Bay circuit, Monica Saridao-Gawises, said schools would receive money with which to place orders with the Government Stores. "According to the minister, it will be by the end of this week [Friday]," she said. When asked when the ordered stationery would be delivered, she responded: "I spoke to the procurement people, they just said it will be processed as soon as possible."

The permanent secretary of education, Alfred Ilukena, could not be reached for comment.

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