Namibia: 20 Out of 382 Pupils Show Up for Class

Several parents with children at the Oshifitu Combined School in Ohangwena region have refused to send their children to the school, claiming the principal is disrespecful.

Principal Fransina Hawala has been accused of bullying pupils, parents and teachers, who claim she has made the school environment toxic, although she has denied these claims.

However, Hawala says she is being victimised because she tries to instil discipline at the school. She also claims she has received death threats by some community members if she does not resign.

Since schools opened on 26 January, only a handful of pupils have reportedly attended classes.

Teachers claim sometimes only 20 out of the total of 382 pupils at the school show up.

"She causes chaos at the school and in the community. Several teachers have transferred to other schools because of her," one teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claims,

Another teacher claims Hawala has recruited a gang of dangerous thugs to insult parents, and rewards them with alcohol.

Jesaya Shimbuli, one of the parents said the school had a meeting in January where teachers allegedly expressed their unhappiness with the principal.

"The teachers said she is not a team player," Shimbuli said.

"If the principal is disrespectful as they say, she must leave the school but if they don't want her because she is not from this area and she is doing her job, they must leave her. We can't allow our kids to be out of school because of this infighting," he said.

DEATH THREATS

"I am threatened with death ... I will not leave this school. Teachers at the school don't teach, they come to school and sit in the office listening to music, watching movies, but on payday they get paid," Hawala says.

She says she has opened a case of threats and defamation at the Okongo Police Station against a relative of one of the teachers who threatened her.

"The school [has been] reduced to a car wash. Teachers' husbands and fathers-in-law wash their cars and clothes at the school," Hawala says, adding that she has only been generous to pupils.

"I help other people financially and psychologically, and bought pupils in need school uniforms," she says.

Hawala says there are no policies in place at the school.

She says temporary positions are occupied by community members, and the school's board members do not want her to warn their in-laws against washing cars on the premises.

"I don't support corruption and am not afraid to say it," Hawala says.

She believes parents are being instigated by teachers and the community at large.

She claims a parent was beaten up recently and two other people, including a pastor, were harassed by a community member for sending their children to the school.

"This school looks like a house because even school board members are from the same family," she says.

According to Hawala, only about 40 to 50 pupils currently attend the school and only three teachers, including herself, are teaching classes.

Hawala added that some teachers still have their jobs even though their English language proficiency is poor.

"One can see that they can't make it in oral interviews, while relatives are given posts, there are no policies at schools, no school development plans, but the government has been pumping money into schools for years."

Hawala also said her refusal to recommend teachers for posts, as she instructed them to reapply, has landed her in hot water with Ohangwena education director Isak Hamatwi.

"Politics are discussed openly, and on Fridays teachers leave one or two classes untaught. Every Friday learners are left unattended," she said.

Hawala says Hamatwi, executive director of education, arts and culture Sanet Steenkamp, and minister of education, arts and culture Anna Nghipondoka are aware of the current situation at the school.

Steenkamp on Thursday said she has discussed the matter with Hamatwi, but could not divulge further information.

She referred The Namibian to Hamatwi for further comment.

Hamatwi had not responded to requests for comment by the time of going to print.

Oshikunde constituency councillor Lonia Kaishungu told The Namibian that she called a meeting with the parents to ask why pupils have not been going to the school.

"I was concerned that kids are not going to school. Director of education Isak Hamatwi and I went to the school and teachers told us that they were aggrieved. The director then said he had sent an investigator to establish why kids don't come to school... I have not heard of anyone threatening to kill or beat the principal," Kaishungu said.

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