OMUTHIYA - About 70 percent of learners enrolled at Omuthiyagwiipundi Senior Secondary School reside in rented corrugated iron zinc shacks at the town’s sprawling informal settlement of Kaniita and at the nearby village of Oshimangwa Shongete.
The majority of the learners are from far-flung areas hence they are forced to seek accommodation elsewhere when enrolled at the school, which is without a hostel facility.
Learners pay rent ranging from N$150 to N$400 a month which in some instances excludes water. Within a year, they can pay as high as N$4800 to the landlords owning these ghettos.
According to the school principal Thomas Uupindi, this situation has been one of the contributing factors of the school’s poor performance as learners have too much freedom as they lack parental supervision.
“Look, we only spend little time with these learners, and we don’t have much control over them after school hours, hence because of the difficult conditions they tend to engage in unprotected sexual activities for money and food; using alcohol and drugs, and cohabitating with older men as they cannot afford rent,” sympathised Uupindi.
The principal said during the third semester last year, the school had 16 cases of pregnant learners.
The school has been battling with high teenage pregnancy over the years, and this year they sought assistance from various stakeholders such as Nappa, Project Hope and Star for Life that currently engage learners on how to desist negative practices on a weekly basis.
“We will see with the help we are getting if there will be any change in the number of pregnancies. However, as a school, we are fully aware of the condition they leave in, and it is not conducive at all. On our part we are trying by all means possible to educate the learners and offer the best education, but the external factors are beyond our efforts,” added Uupindi.
In addition, he said they had in the past allowed learners to camp at the school during exams, but that system could not work because the school grounds got crowded with 300 learners.
Other factors for the system failure were the cost of acquiring tents, food and paying the cooks. When queried about the hostel, the headmaster stated that they tried in that regard but were informed the space was too small for a hostel.
A number of learners interviewed by New Era admitted even though they intend to pass with flying colours, the state in which they live is disruptive and is not conducive for learning.
They cited noise pollution, hunger, long distance and the lack of electricity among other factors.
“We are surrounded by many shebeens and it is too noisy here,” narrated Ngwaii Natse, a Grade 11 learner hailing from Onyati as she peeled of beetroot at the shack that she shares with other learners at the chaotic informal settlement of Oshimangwa Shongete.
“It is rough out here, imagine our sleeping room is where we bath. That’s why some learners fail, sometimes food doesn’t last until end of the month, so one have to fend for themselves to make it until end of the month,” shouted another learner Elizabeth Toolu also from Onyati.
“We will have to live with this situation for a very long time, and the condition is deteriorating every year, whereby even those living with their parent are now shifting to the location.
The majority of the learners demanded a hostel or to be accommodated nearby the school.
Uupindi, on the other hand castigated the parents for their lack of involvement in children’s education, stating they do not make follow-ups on them after they are enrolled in order to assess the dire situation in which learners live in.