FRANSFONTEIN – Some teachers and support staff at Edward //Garoeb Primary School in the Sesfontein constituency are refusing to return to their duty station for fear of earthquake tremors.
Despite a directive from the education ministry asking them to return to school on 1 March 2021, the teachers and support staff have refused the order.
Instead, they want the education authorities to transfer them to other schools, saying they feel unsafe at Edward //Garoeb.
The school is located at Anker village about 45km alongside the Kamanjab-Khorixas road.
In 2018, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit the community, disrupting learning and teaching at the school in the process.
This resulted in the regional education directorate to temporarily relocate the school to Frans Fredericks Combined School in Fransfontein.
“I have been operated five times on my body. When this earthquake happens, it is like tearing me into parts,” said one of the teachers Pauline Awases, who is now volunteering at Frans Fredericks.
Early this year, Edward //Garoeb Primary School was declared safe for both learners and teachers. Hence, only a handful of teachers and support staff joined the learners at the school.
The remaining teachers and support staff continue to report for work at Frans Fredericks Combined School.
On 4 April this year, the village was hit by another earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 –and according to various seismic research agencies, the quake occurred at a depth of about 10 kilometres.
Moderate to strong shaking occurred near the epicentre, while light shaking was felt through northwestern Namibia, including Kunene and parts of Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto and Zambezi.
The earthquake caused some damage to buildings, while the tremor was strong enough to move huge rocks near Anker.
A rock rolled down a mountain, leaving deep scars in the earth while knocking other rocks out of its way.
“I was at the farm, almost six kilometres outside Anker, and I experienced the earthquake, which forced me to run out of the tent in which I was sleeping,” one of the affected teachers, Vivian Gamgoases, recalled.
“It is serious because I cannot stand that thing; it is not to say that I am against the orders from the ministry – I obey them, but please, I cannot stand the earthquake, to be honest.”
Narrating their experience, some of the staff said they endure sleepless nights due to the fear of further tremors in the area.
“My father recently passed on, but I did not attend the funeral because it was the least of my worries. That is why I am saying my priority is the children – to be in a safe place with no earthquakes,” said support staff member Monica Ames.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with some staff members last week, education ministry executive director Sanet Steenkamp noted that although the ministry sympathises with the employees, the process of transfer will not happen overnight, as there are procedures to be followed.
She added interventions made by Kunene governor Marius Sheya and other stakeholders was an indication that a solution is being looked at.
“We have come to listen to you; we have heard you, but that process is ongoing – it is not an overnight thing. There is nobody here to hurt your feelings, but everything takes time – that we need to respect,” said Steenkamp.
Education minister Anna Nghipondoka also added the plight of learners should also be considered before a decision is made.
“I do not want these children to lose more time. The children’s education should continue while strategies are being worked out,” she said.