Namibia: Changing Lives, One School Uniform At a Time

15 February 2019

IT is 07h55 when we arrive at Groot Aub, a small village situated some 60 kilometres outside Windhoek.

The village was incorporated into the City of Windhoek in 2017, despite protests from the community due to a fear of possible increased water and electricity rates, among other expenses.

This is where Windhoek resident Isack Hamata would make his latest donation of school uniforms, something he has been doing consistently for the past three years.

He is simply dressed in a striped blue and white shirt, brown loafers and black pants.

Hamata, a soft-spoken individual, exchanges greetings with Rhonie Garoëb (39), who tells him that the school principal and head of department were not around.

He brushes this information off, opens the boot of the car, takes out sacks of plastics and a box, which Garoëb helps carry to the classroom where Katrina Axuhe-Aboas (63), who teaches Grade 7 mathematics, patiently waits. She has just finished sweeping her classroom, and has assembled five pupils whose parents cannot afford to buy them new uniforms, and had them seated outside the classroom.

The classroom is the last one in a block of classes, and is adorned with fading paint and cracks where a lizard crawls.

Axuhe-Aboas greets Hamata, as pupils from the Groot Aub Secondary School arrive for their donation as well.

Garoëb digs into the boxes for school uniforms, asking the young pupils, who are mostly Grade 1 or Grade 2 pupils - "Mati ko kurixa du a?" - which means "how old are you? - before handing them shirts, skirts, trousers or shoes.

Hamata stands and observes as Garoëb, Axuhe-Aboas as well as a cleaner at the school, Frederika Boois - all move to help the young ones try on their new uniforms.

Some children are excited, but others were shy, or had anxious expressions on their little faces while trying on their uniforms.

There was no official ceremony, no handover speech, no big event, or a big deal made out of the donation. Everyone just gets right into giving and receiving.

Alexia So-Oabes, an eight-year-old girl, finally sits resplendent in her new uniform. Boois had helped her out of her worn-out and torn dress into the uniform in the classroom where Axuhe-Aboas teaches. She gingerly walks outside and sits next to her sister, six-year-old Alexandria.

Alexandria is shyly sitting on the floor, gripping her new uniform while trying to open a can of a fizzy drink that Hamata had given out to those present.

Garoëb attempts to open it for her, but only manages to break the tab opener, sending the pupils who had been silently watching to burst out in laughter.

"This is why I do not open these cans. I always break the opener," said Garoëb with a laugh.

He smiles after pushing the can open with a pen, and handing it over to the six-year-old, who immediately takes a swig from the drink.

Axuhe-Aboas expresses gratitude to Hamata, describing the donation as one that will mark the children's lives forever. She is wearing a purple dress with faded flowers on the chest area, while her hair is neatly combed into afro. She completes her look with some slippers.

As she speaks, she gestures dramatically as if she yearns for people to see the pictures she paints with her hands as she talks, giving references to fables on the kind of legacy this kindness will bring.

"What you did is little. But to these children, it means a lot, and you will not know how deeply thankful their hearts are. This will start a legacy, where they will grow up to care for others and learn to share. Never think that what you do is just taken for granted," said Axuhe-Aboas.

For the Grade 10 pupils, who had also come for the donation, the uniforms were too small, hence most only got pairs of socks.

Speaking to The Namibian, Alvandre Sneyders (9), a Grade 2 pupil, expresses his gratitude shyly with a laugh.

Alexia nods her head in appreciation, when asked if she likes her new school uniform, while her sister hides her face at the questions.

Stacy /Goagoses (9) confidently expresses her gratitude with laughter, and then says in Damara-Nama, "I feel so good and blessed" - before taking a sip from her cooldrink. Boois translates what she says.

As the excitement fades and the pupils start walking off to their homes, Garoëb narrates to The Namibian how he has also taken up the act of donating school uniforms.

He explains meeting Hamata on Facebook, and how his genuine interest in helping others inspired him.

"I challenge every man out there to take just N$500 and buy uniforms for children like these ones. Even just for five pupils, and go to the nearest school and change someone's life. The uniforms are cheap, you have seen the price tags," he added.

Hamata, on the ride back, speaks fondly of his grandmother, and how she inspired the spirit of giving in him from a young age.

He says she always told him three things that he should have - respect, being humble, and to always help the next person in need.

An alumnus of Martin Luther High School, Hamata says that is where he also learnt the art of sharing and caring for others.

"People have been kind to me. When I was confirmed, I wore Lucky Shipale's shoes, and when I matriculated, my friends Ngula and Shafewa Shino bought me my matric farewell clothes and so forth. If people have been kind to you, you cannot help but be kind to other people as well," Hamata says.

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