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Steenkamp addresses hostel shortages in Ohangwena

Steenkamp addresses hostel shortages in Ohangwena

Staff Reporter

THE Executive Director within the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture, Sanet Steenkamp, has responded to presentations made before the parliamentary standing committee on human resources and community in the Ohangwena region, which highlighted the stark shortages of hostels and learning materials for learners in the region.

It was revealed by the Parliamentary standing committee member, Utaara Mootu, that despite the average hostel capacity of 500 learners, schools in the region were compelled to accommodate up to 1,200 learners. In addition to this, Mootu said that among the 61 schools catering to grade 10 and 12 learners, 28 lack laboratory facilities, while 11 are inadequately equipped. It was also revealed that learners in the region have a severe shortage of textbooks. She stated that the current situation has forced learners to rent unsupervised accommodation, leaving them vulnerable to various challenges.

The parliamentary committee member said that four schools have been consolidated to accommodate Grades 10 and 11 in the region, and only one of these schools receives subsidies for hostel accommodations. “Students from the other schools must endure a 15 km walk to and from school daily. Consequently, the school administration has proposed that some students camp on the premises, with parents responsible for providing their meals,” Mootu said.

Responding to these challenges, Steenkamp said that in terms of hostel capacity, everyone has to understand that the ideal is not to have overcrowded hostels. “Because of the issue of making education more accessible to the learners, we find that directors take in more hostel learners. There are two implications here: the first one is that hostel catering is a major cost driver for the state. There is little payment made towards hostel accommodation. When we overcrowd hostels, you have sanitation facilities and sewage problems that are bound to occur, which incur more costs. Yes, it is a major concern. The government, aiming to mitigate these issues, has been subsidising private community hostels to a certain standard. We make a provision of N$22 per day for children who are not in government hostels,” Steenkamp said.

She further urged parents to make arrangements with other community members if their children did not get boarding in hostels. “All I can say at this given moment is that the prioritisation of classrooms is urgent for the ministry right now. We are in the second month of constructing 510 classes. As for hostel facilities, following the outcomes of the education conference of 2022, we have an accelerated infrastructure development plan. With the availability of more funds, the construction of hostels and hostel blocks will be prioritised. At the moment, three are being constructed. There were four constructed: two in Kavango East and two in Zambezi with Chinese aid which were already inaugurated. We are finalising more hostels in the Zambezi,” the Executive Director said.

In addition to this, Steenkamp added that an amount of N$42 million has been made available for the purpose of buying textbooks. However, this amount of N$42 million will have to cover both primary and secondary schools, while schools are already facing a backlog. She added that therefore the ideal would have been to obtain more resources to that effect. Steenkamp also noted that for the 2023/24 financial year as well as the 2024/25 financial year, the ministry has allocated N$14 million for each year for all practical subjects. “We are trying to equip the laboratories with consumables. This is for chemistry, physics, and all the pre-vocational and technical subjects. It will be dispersed directly to the schools,” she concluded.

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