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Hostels for northern schools a priority

2022-10-21  Victoria Kaapanda

Hostels for northern schools a priority

ONGWEDIVA – Government is addressing the growing need for accommodation for teachers and learners, especially at schools in northern Namibia.

Most schools in northern Namibia do not have hostels, which forces learners to seek alternative accommodation, as schools are often far away from home. 

Children who squat with strangers are in danger of getting embroiled in unhealthy relationships – while, in some cases, parents are forced to erect unsafe shacks near schools as a relief for learners who travel long distances to and from schools daily.

The media regularly report on the squalid conditions children live in – in makeshift accommodations and hostels that have been allowed to fall into disrepair.  The absence of supervision leads to a high rate of teenage pregnancies and absenteeism among non-boarders.

But accommodation is also a challenge for teachers.

In August, New Era reported how the principal of Ndeutala Angolo Primary School occupied a classroom as her residence while children in grades two and three had to share a classroom.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel.

Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp said the ministry is fully aware of, and acknowledges school infrastructure development challenges, and wishes to reiterate, “due to competing school needs and limited financial resources, developmental projects will not be carried out at once. However, we remain committed to ensuring that teaching and learning take place in a safe and conducive environment”.

She mentioned the ministry envisages starting with phase two in the 2023/2024 financial year. 

This will include the construction of hostel facilities, completion of the dining hall, renovation of classrooms, construction of ablution facilities and the construction of teachers’ houses.

“In order to address the challenges of infrastructural inadequacies, the ministry is finalising an Accelerated Infrastructure Development Plan (AIDe) with the purpose to address the infrastructure gaps and present a road map for providing the required educational physical facilities within the education system,” she added.

Steenkamp further said this plan is particularly important and opportune, as it comes at a time when all learners have been forced out of school due to the Covid-19 lockdown, with almost a third of learners unable to access remote learning, thereby heightening risks of being left behind and completely dropping out of school.

 “Beyond the classroom requirements, the plan identifies related needs with respect to hostels and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities as well as IT infrastructure needs for schools,” she stated. Steenkamp further indicated, based on the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture’s (MoEAC) latest statistics of 2021 on school hostels, among the 392 school hostels countrywide, 88 of these are government-owned primary school hostels and 149 are government secondary school hostels.  A total of 13 hostels cater to learners with special needs. The government-owned hostels in total accommodate 15 178 primary school learners, 42 487 secondary school learners and 1 197 learners with special needs. 

There are 223 secondary schools in Namibia. Steenkamp explained the case of Ashipala Senior Secondary School, where parents and learners recently demonstrated to ask for a hostel, is among a number of school infrastructure challenges across the country the ministry is addressing. 

Steenkamp said the project to construct a five-block hostel and three houses were planned to commence in 2012/2013; however, due to high-cost implications, a decision was made to split the project into two phases.

She added phase one was to construct the manholes, ponds, pump machines and sewerage pipes. 

The phase was completed during the 2021/2022 financial year, using a government-secured loan from the African Development Bank.

2022-10-21  Victoria Kaapanda

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