Namibia: No Official Request for Irivari's School Return - Steenkamp

19 February 2021

THE Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has refuted claims that rape-accused Lukas Tsamseb, popularly known as 'Irivari', would return to school on Monday following his release from police custody earlier this week.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, executive director of education Sanet Steenkamp said no official request has been made for Irivari's return to school.

She said the matter was sensitive and would need to be carefully scrutinised before any such decision is made.

"Neither the regional director, nor the principle, nor myself have been approached. We have not received any official documentation. It is absolutely important that no such integration happens without in-depth counselling and assessment by a social worker and a signed-off report provided," she said.

The Namibian National Students Organisation (Nanso) says they are strongly against Irivari's reintegration into school.

Nanso president Simon Taapopo told The Namibian that the organisation had written to the education ministry to request that Irivari not be enrolled at any school or be in contact with any pupil whatsoever.

"We do condemn any decision, particularly from politicians, that seeks to admit him into any school. We do not support it at all or any intention to do so," he said.

The prospect of the rape-accused being reintegrated into school among minor children sparked outcry as the public criticised the government for considering the possibility.

Irivari was last year enrolled in Grade 1 at Ondera Primary School in the Oshikoto region when he was taken off the streets of Oshivelo by the government through the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.

His age remains a mystery as he has no national documents, however, a dental report estimated that he may be between 17 and 21 years old.

This, Steenkamp said, would also factor into any considerations of the ministry about the future of his education.

"I've read that his age is above 16. If that is the case we would rather have him referred to a literacy promoter or literacy programmes," she said.

As reported earlier this week, Guinas constituency councillor Marthinus Kainda, who paid Irivari's N$2 000 bail, said the accused would be returning to school as early as Monday.

Kainda claimed he approached Ondera Primary School along with Irivari's uncle to discuss this.

However, school principal Jason Kalenga on Wednesday said he has not met with the councillor and the school was not aware that Irivari was released on bail.

Steenkamp said only the executive director can provide approval for an over-aged person to be placed in school.

This, she said, cannot be done without consultation with and the approval of the education ministry.

"I think the comments by the councillor were made in his own capacity. Nobody has approached education, the regional director, the principal or myself in that regard," she said.

While recognising the struggle of individuals raised in less than favourable conditions, Steenkamp said it is her ministry's mandate to protect minor children.

"We acknowledge the difficulties of any person who lived on the street for a long period. They have established habits, behaviours and patterns [... ] so we don't take lightly to any such integration without looking at all the facts and looking at the support that would be needed to be granted to him.

"We are [also] not insensitive to the needs of the other children, because our job and our aim is to make sure every child is safe," she said.

Irivari and three others stand accused of gang-raping an 18-year-old girl on 1 January 2021.

They are due to appear in court again on 16 March.

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