With the Witkrans School in Rehoboth District shut down late last year, some rural communities in the Hardap Region must brace themselves for relocation within the next two years when three other schools are set for closure.
According to the Director of the Education in the Hardap Region, Ben Boois, Karanas, Groendraai and Witkop schools will be closed down. These schools, he notes, do not have necessary facilities such as hostels or teachers’ quarters while the Paternal Laws of the Baster Community prohibits the alienation of ancestral land making it cumbersome for the Government to acquire land in the affected areas to expand or improve facilities on private land.
In the past, Government used to build schools on private land such as the Rietoog Junior Secondary School built by the then education authorities prior to independence in 1990 complete with accommodation facilities and sufficient classrooms for the children in the region and would therefore not be closed down.
“Government initially made a mistake in constructing schools on private land. We do not want to continue like that. It is also difficult to attract professionally qualified teachers to these areas because of the size of the schools and the accessibility of these schools,” says Boois.
The shutting down of these schools has mainly been initiated to address and improve the issues, which are unique to schools in the rural areas only, which hamper educational excellence in the region, especially at farm schools.
According to Boois, multi-grading is a big problem and makes it very difficult for teachers to provide quality education. The learners are also deprived of their teachers’ full attention since a teacher is assigned to more than one grade.
He also notes that because of this, teachers often cannot attend training courses or workshops as their absence causes disruptions in the school systems since some of the schools have as few as three teachers.
Boois is, however, adamant that after the construction of the new school on Tsumis farm, which is a Government resettlement farm, more jobs for teachers will be created. Therefore, no teachers will be retrenched or left unemployed. The school will enable teachers to teach one class or one subject only.
“We will need more teachers and with the presence of the Tsumis Agricultural College facilities, we will be encouraged to focus on expanding the school. I am, therefore, certain that we will accommodate up to Grade 12 learners in the future,” Boois further says.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Education will transport students from their respective villages to the school during the holidays and weekends.
Boois says that the transport system will be an imitation of a system in the island nation of Cuba where he was once a principal.
The acting Inspector of the Oanab Circuit and former Mayor of Rehoboth, George Dax says that Government has no lease agreement with private land owners in the Rehoboth District and takes only responsibility for the removal of domestic waste on the premises.
He also adds that children of farm workers are at times forced to change schools more than once in a year as their parents are often required to change jobs more than once.
The construction of the school at Tsumis with its hostel facilities is central point in the area, thus, providing a stable environment for the children.
The cost of the feasibility study, which was started in April 2009 was N$250 000 while the construction is estimated to be N$23m and will start this year.