Namibia: Oshikoto Schools Hit By Water Woes

SCHOOLS in Oshikoto region, with an enrolment of more than 3 000 pupils, are experiencing severe water problems.

These schools normally rely on shallow wells and boreholes during normal rainy seasons, but as the drought takes effect, the schools are feeling the pinch.

As the water table recedes due to the drought, most wells and boreholes have become dry, with the few remaining working boreholes yielding salty water.

This has forced over 20 primary and secondary schools in the region to depend on the salty water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Pupils have reportedly resorted to bringing their own drinking water to schools.

Many people fear the water shortage will result in the disruption of teaching and learning at these schools and might result in the outbreak of diseases.

Due to water shortages, the schools lack proper sanitation and many use pit latrines, while some pupils have resorted to using the bush to answer nature's call, which can lead to illnesses as pupils do not have water to wash their hands after using the toilets.

Abel Nekomba, the principal of Oshatilwe Combined School at the Okankolo constituency said the boreholes near the school have all dried up, and the school as well as the community now all depend on water from a few unprotected wells.

"Things are not good this side. Clean drinking water has become a luxury to us here; a single drop of it means the world to us and we never let it go to waste.

"We are forced to travel many kilometres to the nearest circuit offices to get clean water, otherwise we have to use contaminated water from the wells. Teachers bring their own drinking water to school," said Nekomba.

The nearest borehole to Oshatilwe Combined School is more than four kilometres away.

He said pupils, teachers and community members scramble for contaminated water at one well in the area.

Nekomba added that the feeding programme at the school was stopped due to limited water access.

"The school feeding programme has been suspended in the meantime because we do not have water and there is no one to assist us to draw water from the nearest boreholes. Sometimes the parents assist by bringing water for the school using donkey carts but the boreholes have dried up and the water in the unprotected wells is contaminated.

"Pupils are no longer concentrating on lessons because they are hungry. They sometimes come to school on an empty stomach hoping to get something to eat at school, but there is no water to prepare the food. It is really an unfortunate situation for us all here but the pupils are more affected because when a pupil is hungry, they cannot perform in class, all they do is sleep," he said.

Vilho Shipuata, the deputy director of education in the region, told The Namibian that most of the affected schools are in the rural constituencies of Okankolo and Eengodi.

"This is not something new. It has been ongoing for long now and there is nothing much that we can do from our side because it is the ministry of agriculture's responsibility to extend the water pipeline to these areas, but nothing is happening from their side.

"It's our wish to have all schools in the region to have access to safe drinking water and we are constantly trying to engage the agriculture ministry to act fast. Our pupils and teachers are battling sanitation problems, which is not good at all," said Shipuata.

Shipuata said the feeding programme at these schools has not been affected much by the water shortage, as the schools use water collected from the nearby boreholes to prepare their meals.

Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp could not be reached for comment.

Oshikoto has a total of 200 schools with 72 066 pupils and about 3 000 teachers. Of the schools in the region, 57 do not have electricity.

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