NGSIP MEDIA RELEASE
Donkerbos Primary School authorities and learners in the Omaheke region have applauded the Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP) for making a difference in the lives of marginalised learners in their community.
The learners at the school in Otjombinde Constituency currently sleep in old dilapidated prefabricated makeshift structures and sit on bare floors instead of chairs during lessons.
The school, situated 260 kilometres from Gobabis, currently caters for 200 learners. It is remotely situated in the Otjombinde Constituency in the Kalahari Desert of the Omaheke Region and the majority of the learners are from the San community, street kids from Gobabis and small groups of Damara, Nama and Otjiherero speaking pupils.
Compounded by a critical shortage of water supply to the school and being outside the coverage of all mobile communication networks, and without electricity as well as by a lack of facilities like school furniture, proper sanitation and educational materials, the situation at the school could best be described as unbearable for both the learners and their teachers.
This situation has also affected the learners’ concentration levels, which ultimately impact negatively on their ability to learn properly. Currently about 90 learners are housed in two dilapidated pre-fabricated corrugated iron structures which are susceptible to rain and adverse weather conditions and the learners are forced to sleep on bare floors as there are no beds or even mattresses. The pupils sleep on the cement floor, using only their blankets as cover. The dilapidated building is in urgent need of repair; at best it needs to be re-built.
In this rainy season, every morning these pupils struggle to hang their blankets on the fence to dry, their efforts are at times futile as the blankets fall down as a result of strong winds or rain coming back again. But, this will soon be something of the past when the NGSIP supported construction of modern infrastructure at the school is completed at the end of this month.
Hedwig Kazarako Nguapia, the school principal, is very optimistic that once completed the N$6 million facelift of the Donkerbos Primary School, which was initiated by the school in 2014, would have a positive impact on learning at the school. According to a representative of the new contractor, Rivic Consultancy cc, Ralla Geingob the construction of the hostel, classrooms and an administration block is nearing completion and will be handed over towards the end of this month. The new contractor was brought in after the previous one, MRP Namibia Construction failed to deliver in 2014. Nguapia started a project in 2011 of taking the country’s most vulnerable children--street kids who were begging and scavenging for food in the streets of Gobabis to Donkerbos Primary School. “I realised that these kids lacked the time and money to go to school and therefore I decided to bring them here to attend school. Since then and despite major hurdles that they faced at the time, some have even managed to graduate to other schools,” she recalled. She, however, added that: “The lack of proper facilities have led to dropouts, especially among the street kids who have since decided to return to their old ways of life at Gobabis,” adding that the new hostels will at least create hopefully a safe and caring environment, especially for the streetkids who have nowhere else to go but the streets. “The learners are currently housed in these structures, but thanks to the generous support from the NGSIP they will soon take ownership of brand new dormitories,” said an upbeat Kazarako. “Education is the key to unlocking the potential in these children to become future chemical engineers, scientists and artisans and it starts at primary school level. A small contribution can go the distance when it comes to changing lives, which is what we aim to do here.”
It is easy, after all, to tell a child to be hopeful. It however, becomes entirely more powerful when they are given a reason to hope, she said. Kazarako, who has been instrumental in single-handedly convincing most of the Gobabis street kids to go back to the school, was overcome with emotions. “We are one of the largest primary schools in the area for the marginalised children and we struggled to find funds to buy more desks and chairs for our learners. We were blessed by this generous support from NGSIP. A real need has been fulfilled and I am very thankful to NGSIP.” She, however, pleaded with the NGSIP to complete the construction of the facilities as per the original submitted and agreed upon plan which, among others included the provision of water supply to the school from a borehole. She said the school experiences severe water shortages which sometimes go on for weeks due to a lack of potable water in the vicinity.
The principal says doing so would leave a lasting legacy of the NGSIP programme in the region in general and the community in particular. In a wide ranging interview Kazarako said the NGSIP had initiated the building of hostels and other infrastructure at the school after it was requested by the Omaheke Regional Council, but that some activities such as water supply to the school that were included in the original plan seem to have been left out. Upua Kaaronda, a 14-year-old grade 7 learner, said he was happy that with new facilities like the hostel and classrooms they would now be protected from the elements, such as the current heavy rains and the coming winter and that they would also be able to concentrate fully on their studies.
“Temporary structures consumed time that could have been used to teach the learners. It was not easy for them to concentrate fully on their lessons because they had to endure the rain and wet floors,” Kaaronda said. Golda Wamunika, an Administrative Officer at the school not only heaped praises on the NGSIP for making a difference in the lives of the marginalised learners by initiating the construction and renovation of hostels and other infrastructure there, but went on to plead that the programme should bring the construction phase to its logical conclusion. “Such infrastructure will inspire the learners and ensure that they always look forward to coming to school every day. A favourable learning environment is important and we are proud to be part and parcel in contributing towards that goal, particularly as NGSIP prioritizes education as central to its community projects,” said Wamunika.
However, the school is still in dire need of a dining hall and additional dormitories.
A community leader from the marginalised San community, Piptoko Koper, also expressed his gratitude on behalf of his people, saying at least a basic and real need at the school will be fulfilled that of accommodation for learners. The access road off the main DR1692 is a bumpy 30 kilometres sand track only accessible by 4x4 vehicles.