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Tent-dwelling teachers yearn for houses

2022-08-05  Loide Jason

Tent-dwelling teachers yearn for houses

Loide Jason

Tsumkwe - Parents of learners at village schools in the Tsumkwe constituency are concerned that teachers who are sleeping in tents because of a dearth of proper accommodation, would seek new pastures.

One of the parents and retired teacher Jerry Gtagio said teachers continuously rise and meet the challenges thrown at them.

However, the absence of dignified housing makes their work extra difficult, and they can therefore not serve as suitable role models in a community short of trained professionals.

Teachers at the //Auru village school still do not have safe and secure houses since its establishment some 15 years ago. Gtagio is one of the teachers who started the school in 1999. He retired in 2005 due to health issues.

“For me, it was better because I am from the village. But the young ones who are sleeping in tents and are from faraway villages need proper accommodation, even something made out of corrugated zinc,” he empathised. 

Culcga Kciesje, one of the San teachers, has been sleeping in a tent for the past 15 years.

He said he has been to various village schools, where he is teaching on a rotational basis as teachers often resign due to poor working conditions.

“I came from Makuri village, 40 kilometres from Tsumkwe, and 30 kilometres from this school. My house is far, and I cannot afford to commute every day. Therefore, I have to stay here in my tent,” he explained. He added that the tent he is using was donated in 2018 by an organisation, and he has been using it since then at the different schools where he has been teaching.

“We all know that a tent is not meant for moving up and down. It is something made for an emergency. I have been using it for years now, and it has been damaged by mice and has holes all over,” he said.

He also often finds snakes and other wildlife who try to share his sleeping quarters with him.

“There was a day we were sitting around the fire at night, telling stories. My colleague was walking towards us, and he saw a snake slithering into the tent. He informed, us and we used torches to track it down. We found a black mamba. We killed it, but we were still scared afterwards,” he narrated. 

Standing in front of the tent that he calls his home, Kciesje said it is now old and does not close properly. “My things were always stolen, either by the villagers or school kids, when I am out of the village.

I am forced to dismantle the tent and lock it in the classroom every time I go out to town. It is not good. We need better accommodation to encourage us to maximise our inputs to make sure we perform to our best abilities,” he continued.

He stated that the government is only giving priority to food and other needs for learners in a hostel. The school has two rooms made out of corrugated zinc that is accommodating boys and girls. 

“For me not to be so scared, I have brought five learners from my village to share my tent with them so that when elephants come, I am not alone in the tent. Also, the villagers come to stay with me around the fire at night. At the moment, I am the only one at school as my colleague has not been around for some time now,” he said.

Another issue that is threatening the teachers at that school and forcing them to give up their careers is the distance from the road to the school in the bush. The teachers are forced to allegedly walk 20 kilometres to school, as there is no transport. “We should appreciate all these extra efforts. We should not neglect their safety, health and pay cheques to maximise their efforts,” said another village, who came to the teacher’s fire. Festus Soroab, a teacher and community education mobiliser for San children, said he has been a teacher for the past 10 years, and also has been sleeping in a tent as schools have no accommodation.

“Only one village school has accommodation, and now teachers rotate from one school to another so that everyone can at least sleep in proper accommodation for a year. It is very tough, and sometimes teachers are suffering here at village schools. They care for children, but their safety is not guaranteed as most school villages are within the Nyae Nyae conservancy.

All the village schools in the area, namely Ben se Kamp  //Xa/oba, Den/UI, Nhoma and Duin Pos, have no accommodation for teachers, who are forced to sleep in tents.

Contacted for comment on Monday, Otjozondjupa regional education director Josephine Mutenda said she was very busy with meetings regarding the planned public servants’ strike. “I am in a meeting, please! Just send the names of the schools you are claiming not to have accommodation and wait,” she charged.

Repeated attempts to get comment from her proved futile, as Mutenda did not respond to text messages on WhatsApp nor the calls.

2022-08-05  Loide Jason

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