5 February 2013

Namibia: School Rents Out Premises to Businesses

THE Academia Secondary School's decision to lease out the school premises to three companies has shocked Deputy Minister of Education David Namwandi, who described it as "anarchy, unacceptable and disturbing".

The Windhoek school leases a portion of its premises to a car dealer, a driving school and a company producing furniture.

"The school is a learning place, nothing more than that. This is government infrastructure. It's totally unacceptable. I have instructed the permanent secretary to look into the matter," Namwandi said.

When The Namibian visited the school, more than 30 cars were parked while a driving instructor was taking a learner through his paces near the cars.

The initiative is applauded by some teachers at the school, while others are fuming over a lack of transparency, saying they are not informed what the school gets out of the deal.

Herman Rust, the school principal, confirmed that three companies are renting the school premises, saying the business deals are initiatives that the underfunded school took in order to generate money. He listed various expenses the school must pay every month.

Rust told The Namibian that the car dealer uses the premises as a storage facility and it was a decision backed by the school board.

He said the school is paid a monthly fee, which he declined to reveal, and the arrangement has been in place for five months now.

"They pay a monthly amount which goes to the school development fund," he said.

He said it was none of The Namibian's business how much the car dealer is paying for the parking.

"Why do you want proof. You're not a parent," he said.

The other company is a driving school which trains drivers at the school premises and the principal said pupils benefit from the deal because they get a discount when they make use of the company's service.

The school also leases out a classroom to a company that assembles chairs and desks for government schools.

Sources said the school only received a few chairs but Rust dismissed the allegation, saying the school had received 100 chairs and 100 desks for free.

Rust said there is nothing wrong with the school accommodating the companies, as the ministry stipulates that schools can collaborate with the business community.

The principal said he did not consult the ministry as he deemed it unnecessary.

"I don't see anything wrong with what we do. There are also other schools that rent out halls, buses, sport fields and so on. Why not us?" he said.

Sources at the school said the principal did not tell either the pupils or the teachers what exactly the school gets in return.

Rust said he did not tell teachers and pupils "because it is not important to them".

Last year, Namwandi said there was no justification for schools generating money from renting out classes or halls. He said all schools get enough funding from the government. The deputy minister was especially against churches that were conducting services on school grounds.

The decision to stop churches from using school facilities was criticised by various school principals.

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