Kids wait in vain

Four years after a school project was given the green light, the over 3 000-strong Mix settlement still waits in vain.

09 November 2018 | Education

Parents and children living in the poverty-stricken Mix settlement north of Windhoek were handed another blow in October when deep cuts to the education budget dashed their hopes that a school will be built there this year.

The Mix settlement primary and secondary school has been on the cards for over four years but to date the only activity on the plot set aside for the school was the erection of a perimeter fence.

In 2014, after it was revealed that hundreds of Mix children had dropped out of school because of unaffordable transport costs to Windhoek, the education ministry announced the school project.

In this year's main development budget for the education ministry tabled in March, N$10 million was allocated to the school project in 2018/19.

Last month, however, the budget was slashed by about N$7.9 million, leaving just over N$2 million to be spent on the project in the current financial year.

In contrast, not a cent was slashed from the defence ministry's development budget of nearly N$435.5 million for 2018/19.

The cost of the school project is estimated at N$131.5 million.

The school is to cater for 600 learners and the plan makes provision for 32 classrooms.

The project has been on the books of the education ministry since April 2014 and was scheduled to be finished by March 2022.



A serious struggle

For parents at the settlement, unrealised promise is worrying.

“The schools are so far, and the councillors and government talk too much, but do little,” the mother of an eight-year-old boy says.

Miriam Shikongo pays N$500 for her son's school transport each month.

She says a school nearby could significantly change their quality of life, considering the savings on transport.

Samuel Paulus says it took difficult negotiations with taxi drivers to agree on the N$500 discounted monthly fee to drive children to school and back.





He says some parents pay more than N$1 000 a month, especially after the taxi fare increases.

“You find many here who cannot afford to send their children to school. Transport costs are always talked about here,” he said.

He said it's difficult to point a finger at anyone, but it does come down to the government's priorities.



Food off the table

Others say the cost of school transport takes food from their children's mouths.

“You pay N$500 per child to send them to school, just for the transport. But we only earn N$1 000 a month or less, so then there is no money left for food for the children. It's heart-breaking,” Norman Ashikale told Namibian Sun this week.

He said Mix residents struggle to travel to supermarkets, clinics and hospitals in town, besides the hardship of living in an area without toilets, electricity and other necessities.

“There is money, but people eat it up, and you wonder where the money went. Until when must we live like this?” he said.

Ashikale also criticised local councillors, who don't live in the area and seldom pay a visit to see their circumstances.

Elina Iyambo pays N$1 000 a month to send her two children to school, but says there are days she simply can't afford the cost and keeps them at home.

She sells homebrew and other items at a small shop and says emergencies often crop up, which means the children must stay home as there is no money for transport.

Municipal buses service the area only on national holidays.

“I have no money to move closer to town or to the schools. I live here because I have no choice,” Iyambo says.

In 2014, an estimated 3 000 people lived at Mix Settlement. Residents say the number has likely more than doubled since then, though no recent numbers could be confirmed.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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