“Must I now go to school stinking?” This is a question Eldorado High School grade 8 learner Tangeni Ndondi continuously asks her unemployed mother, who, at the same time, is struggling to support herself and family.
New Era previously reported on the plight of 36-year-old Saima Shivandu, who, at the time, had managed to open a small tuck shop at home. However, due to financial constraints and the inability to regularly buy stock, her only source of income folded.
This realisation made the beginning of this year more difficult for her and her children.
Shivandu, unable to afford Tangeni’s new school uniform, turned to her neighbours, who were able to donate two shirts and pants.
She used Tangeni’s grant money of N$250 to purchase basic schoolbooks and stationery, while other good Samaritans donated book covers. She then made the difficult decision to have her three-year-old daughter remain in the northern part of the country – just so she has one less mouth to feed they barely have food in the house.
Shivandu currently sells boiled eggs to make ends meet, but says she only makes a total sale of N$36 from it on a good business day. From that amount, N$20 is used for her son’s transport to and from school. However, when there are no sales made from the egg business, her son is forced to skip school.
Even with his grant, the family is left with very little for transport, meaning they negotiate with taxi drivers for Tangeni to pay N$10 from Eehambo dhaNehale in the remote side of Hakakana area to Eldorado High School in Khomasdal.
Shivandu believes her neighbours are God-sent, saying if it were not for them, her son would go to bed hungry every night.
“I am afraid him being out of school will hinder his progress,” said Shivandu.
“But what can I do? I am struggling. If he could get into the hostel, maybe that could help, but that is another cost.”
She stops her train of thought when she realises the hostel would create another challenge – the inability to consistently afford cosmetics and other basics. This would probably make things even more difficult for her son.
When New Era arrived at their home last week, the family had not had a proper meal for days.
The family is not part of the beneficiaries who receive food through the food bank initiative. Staring blankly into nothing, she remembers that a fee of N$900 still needs to be paid to the school.
She says she hopes to ask from family members – and if that does not work, she would not know where to start. The school requires a black school bag, but Tangeni currently uses one he has been having since primary school, which is not black.
Shivandu is deeply worried that her inability to provide for her family is affecting her children’s mental health.
“My son is a good boy, but I am afraid of what can happen,” she added as she explained how he does his homework during the day so he doesn’t struggle at night with a candle.