1 March 2013

Namibia: Kunene Drought Causes High School Dropout Rates

Mobile schools in the Kunene Region are battling to retain pupils as parents are taking the children out of school to move to areas with better grazing for their livestock.

Communal farmers in the region have lost countless numbers of livestock due to drought over the past few months, forcing some people to move to areas where animals have a better chance of survival.

Nampa this week visited mobile schools near Opuwo, where drops in pupil numbers have been recorded.

The principal of the mobile school at Omuhiva, Uazuva Kakuva, said his school registered 91 pupils at the beginning of the year, but this figure now stands at 70. The school caters for grades one to four.

"Ten learners did not return from the weekend, and 11 were signed out by their parents as they wanted to move and could not leave their children behind because it would be difficult for the children to get to where their parents are and back every weekend," Kakuva said.

He said the situation is out of the school's hands, as there is no hostel for the children.

"If we do not allow the parents to take their children with them to the villages they are moving to it would be our responsibility to take care of them, feeding them from our pockets. We as teachers cannot sustain that," he said.

The school feeding programme would not be sufficient, as the maize meal given to pupils is only enough for weekdays.

Another school that has experienced a drop in pupil numbers is the KM Maundu Primary School in the Epupa Constituency, which had 145 pupils last year but registered only 120 this year.

According to the acting principal at the school, Kumauii Ella Tjikotoke, the drop in the enrolment figure was also due to families moving in search of better grazing conditions for their livestock.

She said the figures only started improving after officials from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare visited the school to register children who stood to benefit from social grants. This prompted some parents and guardians to bring children back to the school.

"We also registered more children in the last week after a few of our teachers visited cattle posts to inform people about the free primary education, and encouraged them to bring the children back to school," Tjikotoke said.

The number of children registered at KM Maundu now stands at 147 after two more children were enrolled at the school on Tuesday.

"We also registered 23 pre-primary learners of whom only 10 are attending school because the rest have moved far away from the school due to the drought," she said.

The KM Maundu Primary School caters for pre-primary to Grade 7 learners, and does not have a hostel.

The Kunene Region has 72 mobile schools at villages. The majority of the schools accommodate grades one to three. The units all fall under the Ondao Mobile School and have a principal, heads of department and an office in Opuwo.

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