Ex-learner ploughs back at village school

It is a life-long dream of most small-town people to leave their rural lives for big-cities.
Rarely do such people return to their roots to become conduits of that same dream for other people. But that is exactly what Maria Pietersen has done.
Pietersen left Okombahe Village, a small town in the Erongo Region in 1996 to pursue her teaching career at the Windhoek College of Education, now known as the Unam Khomasdal Campus.
After many years away from home, she requested for a transfer to go to Okombahe Primary School in her village from Swakopmund Primary School, which she was granted in February this year.
This was the opportunity she had been looking for to plough back into her community.
Okombahe is a settlement in Namibia’s Erongo Region and serves as the capital of the Damara-speaking community.
The Dibasen Junior Secondary School is situated at the village.
“I felt a burning desire to return to my roots and inspire learners. I wanted to uplift the quality of teaching with my big-city experience and exposure to different cultures,” she submits, adding, she finds it interesting she currently teaches at the same school where she completed her primary education.
Although the school follows the normal syllabus, she has since taught her learners several topics related to general knowledge because they are very unfamiliar with life outside their small village. The school has over 700 children, 25 for whom she is responsible.
She teaches pre-primary children between the ages of five to six years of age.
“One of my young learners once asked me if it was possible for her to see the people speaking inside ‘the box’ while listening to a radio,” she exclaims, adding, not only does she desire to be a role model for her students, she would also like to expose them to the world outside.
Pietersen, therefore, hopes her plan to bring her learners to the Windhoek Show next month pushes through. She plans to take two classes of up to 50 underprivileged children, aged five and six on the trip to expose them to modern life.
Apart from the game rides and exhibitions to learn how several pieces of equipment work, they will also visit the main museum, the Parliament and a radio station to see how radio technology works, as well as a local newsroom.
Although the learners are excited about their first ever trip outside their village, she says her efforts to raise funds for it have not been entirely fruitful.
“We recently had a beauty contest at the Damara Cultural Festival in our town to raise funds for the trip. We, in fact, plan to make this contest an annual event. Unfortunately, we only raised part of the money, because people here depend mainly on livestock for income, which has been hampered by the ongoing drought.
I hope a Good Samaritan comes to our aid,” she says.
According to her, most of the learners are either orphans who live with their already burdened grandparents or come from extremely low income households and their enthusiasm in their studies inspires her to do more for them in future.