Namibia: Omatope Combined School in Dire Straits

17 September 2019

Omatope Combined School, located about 40 kilometres north-east of Tsintsabis in the Oshikoto region, is struggling to erect permanent structures to accommodate its pupils.

The school faces a challenge of renovating three traditional huts which are used as classrooms, to ensure the safety of pupils before the start of the rainy season.

The school has an enrolment of over 200 pupils and nine teachers, and offers classes from Grades 1 to 9.

There is only one block of classrooms, which accommodates the lower grades (from pre-primary to Grade 4).

From Grades 5 to 9, pupils are taught in the three huts and a zinc shack that were built with contributions from parents and community members. However, some of the structures are now in an appalling condition after they were destroyed by livestock that roam the area.

Videos of dilapidated classrooms at the school were circulated online last week.

Some of the structures can be mistaken for goat kraals, and can hardly fit 10 desks. If pupils cannot borrow a desk or chair from peers, they have to stand during lessons.

The school's acting principal, Henock Iyambo, told The Namibian last week that the shortage of classrooms has been a challenge since the school's establishment about a decade ago.

He said it is not surprising to find snakes or other creatures in some classrooms.

At times, classes are held under the trees due to the high temperatures in the zinc classrooms, and overcrowding in the huts.

"The huts were destroyed by cattle while we went for holidays. There is a big challenge because when the rainy season starts, we will not be able to cope with this situation. As you know, we are in a drought situation, and there is nowhere we can find grass to repair the huts. Normally, the parents help us cut the grass, but there is nothing to cut now. Snakes are a common sight at the school. Sometimes, pupils scurry out of the class because of snakes in the roof," he stressed.

Iyambo added that they have been appealing to the ministry for more classrooms, but got no help. The only classroom block at the school was built with a donation from a private company in 2015.

A teacher, who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity, said they were told that the school does not qualify for a classroom block because the pupil population is too small. As a result, the teacher said, parents helped to build huts and zinc shacks to accommodate the pupils. Apart from the shortage of classrooms, the school was also battling with a lack of teaching materials such as books, and furniture, amongst other things.

Another teacher told The Namibian: "It has been three years since we received any study materials from the government".

There is a severe shortage of textbooks. For example, for some subjects, there are only three textbooks that are used by a teacher. A number of pupils at the school have not touched a book in their lives, the teachers stated.

There is also no electricity in the area, and during examinations, teachers travel to the circuit centre or nearest school to print question papers.

Teachers' accommodation is likewise a challenge at the school. Iyambo said there is a two-bedroom house which is shared by teachers, but some are "planning to transfer to other schools because of the unfavourable conditions".

Iyambo said school inspectors in the region were well aware of the situation at Omatope, but they offered little to no help to solve problems at the school.

"The inspectors are aware of this issue, but they have been promising to build classrooms. We also don't have electricity to print teaching material. We travel to Tsintsabis to print, and it is costly," Iyambo lamented.

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