Schools struggle to pay bills

08 August 2019 | Education

The country's pressing economic woes are responsible for the temporary three-day suspension of municipal services to nine Windhoek schools last week.

Regional director of education Gerard Vries told Namibian Sun that the Khomas directorate of education, “like the other institutions in the country, faces a major budgetary downward revision which impacts operations.”

He said utility bills were competing against an array of other creditors for payment.

In a public statement issued last week the education ministry admitted that the City of Windhoek had cut electricity and water to schools for non-payment of a N$55 million debt.

In response, ministry and municipality officials met on Thursday, a day after the services had been suspended, and agreed to an immediate N$30 million payment to be made on Thursday this week.

The remaining N$25 million will be paid in N$5 million instalments on top of the regular monthly bills, the ministry confirmed.

In November last year, the Khomas education directorate faced a similar dilemma.

At the time, Namibian Sun reported that schools faced a potential suspension of services due to a N$32.5 million unpaid utility bill.

Then, in January this year, Vries asked the municipality to put on hold the threatened suspensions, explaining that the regional directorate had not received money from the finance ministry to pay the utility bills.

“The economic downturn in the country remains prevalent and on the previously listed dates part payments were affected by the education ministry,” Vries said this week.

Asked about the impact of last week's suspension, he said hostels were hard hit, as food preparation had to be done elsewhere.

“Similarly, disconnection of water to schools affects health and hygiene in ablution facilities as well as availability of water for learners at drinking fountains.”

The electricity cuts affected photocopying of worksheets and question papers, cold storage at hostels, study time during the evenings and interrupted phone and internet connectivity.

JANA-MARI SMITH