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Jacob Marengo, a learner managed school

by Shasimana Uugulu



The principal of the Katutura school, Jacob Marengo Secondary, Ottilie Abrahams believes the unique management system based on a turma concept will continue to serve the school to greater heights.

Turma is a Portuguese word for ‘a group of people who work together to perform a specific function’.

The 74 year old says since the school was established in 1985 by the Khomasdal Civic Association, the turma system has proven to be a good management system over the years as it involves learners in the running of the school.

“Under the turma system, every learner at the school is involved in some aspect of running of the school. One of the main aims of the turma system is to make learners understand what role they have to play in the society. They must be made aware that they are part and parcel of the society in which they live and that they owe it to the society to make the world a better place,” says Abrahams.

According to her, when the school was established, the management decided not to have a Student Representative Council (SRC) system as it makes only a few learners lead the others and it also reminds them of the colonial government. 

The school, therefore, created six turmas namely; the classroom turma, the disciplinary turma, the homework turma, the teacher turma, the maintenance turma and the extra mural turma.

Learners who belong to the classroom turma are responsible for creating a conducive environment within the classroom so that teachers are able to begin teaching the moment they enter a classroom.

The disciplinary turma must foster a sense of self-discipline in all learners while the homework turma is responsible for overseeing whether all the learners have done their homework before teachers ask them.

The teacher turma ensures that there is a harmonious relationship between the teachers and the learners to allow most of the time to be devoted to learning.

The maintenance turma ensures that the school grounds are well kept and clean and they regularly check on the school furniture to ensure that they are not broken and are well maintained.

Finally, the extra mural turma organises all events outside the formal school activities.

Abrahams says having all learners belong to one of the turmas fosters a sense of responsibility and leads to the development of leadership skills. 

She says since the school was established 26 years ago, learners at the school only started to wear uniforms last year. She added that this was a result of involving learners into the running of the school and it was learners themselves who decided that uniforms should be introduced.

“When I was in exile, I attended a school in Sweden and we never wore uniforms. I thought this was a good concept as we did not have to worry about the expenses of school uniforms. However, last year, learners at the school outvoted us and the school uniform was introduced,” says Abrahams.

Currently, there are 650 learners at the school and Abrahams says the school admits all kinds of learners whether they perform well or score low marks. She says the school gives emphasis on critical thinking, leadership and participatory democracy.“We are a community-based school and interested in catering for the need of the marginalised learners. Over the years, I have developed a passion to help marginalised students become critical thinkers and ensure their education in all aspects that will make them responsible members within their communities,” she explains.

A walk around the school makes one notices well kept lawns, a garden and recently built aqua culture ponds that is meant to soon help in the education of learners to be engaged in food production.Asked when she plans to retire given her age, Abrahams says there is a lot that senior people in Namibia can offer to the country if they are given the chance. She says she will only retire when there is nothing else she can do for her country.