Private schools lose up to 20% of their learners

24 July 2020 | Education



Private schools affiliated to the Namibian Private Schools Organisation (Napso) have lost between 5% and 20% of their pupils because of financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 -pandemic.

Napso represents 24 schools with more than 7 000 learners and 700 teachers.

According to the organisation's chief executive, Wouter Niehaus, about 48% of parents with children in these private schools are involved in the tourism industry, which is the hardest-hit sector in Namibia. More than 50% of parents are business owners, whose income has dropped by between 40% and 100% since the start of the state of emergency.

Only 6% of parents are public servants, whose salaries have not been affected by the crisis, Niehaus says.

Private schools in rural areas are the hardest hit by the loss of income, mainly because most of their learners' parents are involved in tourism and trophy hunting, which were brought to a standstill by the pandemic. Private schools in urban areas have the benefit of serving more diverse communities, he said.

Niehaus says many parents are finding it impossible to pay for private education, given their loss of income.

No reserves

“Most private schools are not-for-profit organisations which invest all their income in the schools, learners and teachers,” he points out. There are no reserves they can fall back on in hard times, yet they have to settle their accounts like any other business. If a private school can no longer repay its loans or pay staff salaries, it is declared insolvent. Niehaus says six Napso members which use Afrikaans as medium of instruction have approached Afrikaans cultural organisations in Namibia and South Africa for financial assistance. Napso has also appealed to the ministries of finance and education to help keep private schools afloat.

Layoffs, pay cuts

Colette Rieckert, managing director of Windhoek Gymnasium and the Association of Private Schools in Namibia (APSN), says her organisation's members have also lost between 3% and 20% of their learners.

These schools have also reported an increase in bad debt as parents could no longer afford to pay school fees.

According to Rieckert, several schools affiliated to APSN have had to lay off staff and reduce teachers' pay - in some cases to 25% of their former salaries.