Calls to shut down 'inhumane' hostel

The ELCIN church says it cannot afford to renovate the dilapidated Nkurenkuru hostel, and there is no other accommodation for more than 200 pupils.

30 January 2018 | Education

Calls have been made for a church hostel at Nkurenkuru to be closed down as the living conditions where over 200 learners are accommodated have been described as 'inhumane'.

With the education ministry still planning how to address the shortage of proper school infrastructure across the country, learners from various schools in the area, accommodated at the Nkurenkuru Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) hostel, continue to endure harsh living conditions.

A visit to the hostel last week revealed the conditions learners are exposed to daily, in particular the dilapidated church buildings constructed with clay in the 1960s by Finnish missionaries. Concerned members of the community said the closure of the hostel was long overdue because the situation worsens every year. The buildings appear as if they are ready to collapse, with large, deep cracks in the walls. The learners housed at the church hostel have their meals in the open because there is no dining hall.

Furthermore, learners do not have proper mattresses and beds and the environment is filthy.

Education permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp explained that the church is responsible for renovating the hostel because the buildings belong to them. She said the government is only responsible for ensuring that the church receives its subsidy for each child. Steenkamp explained that the government provides the church with two kinds of subsidies, one for basic necessities such as food and cleaning materials, and the other for maintenance, which is paid per square metre of the hostel premises. Steenkamp pointed out that efforts to address various issues in the education sector are in the pipeline.

“Everything is still evolving… we have what we call project identification forms and based on the need of the region, the director will submit their needs.

“What we also need to keep in mind is that at this stage, we have made provisions for funds for pre-primary classrooms as well as funds for community hostels in Kavango West,” Steenkamp said.

“Those are the things from a national level which we are supporting the region but the comprehensive needs of the region will still be submitted and then we can talk of any new construction to take place,” Steenkamp added.

Steenkamp also said that the ministry is in the process of issuing directives to all the regions about possible construction projects.

However, according to the church's pastor, Reverend Ernestus Karuyeva, the government subsidy is not enough and he called on the government to increase the amount.

Karuyeva said as long as the subsidy does not include payment for institutional workers, water and electricity, and renovations, the hostel conditions will not improve.

“Where do you expect us to get money from to run the hostel? There are people who need to be paid for cooking and maintaining the hostel blocks.

“These buildings are not easy to renovate because they are made of clay. We have to construct new ones and we have started but we are stuck due to the limited funds we have,” Karuyeva said.

“We understand it is our responsibility to take care of our buildings but the government can also see we are in need of help,” Karuyeva further said.

“If the government is going to construct its hostels, we will be happy but it must happen fast. As much as we want the children to go and to be relieved of this responsibility, we will continue because we do not want the learners to be suffering on the streets,” he said.





KENYA KAMBOWE

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