Nearly 100 years of memories go up in flames

No hall to welcome new grade eight learners

19 January 2021 | Education

Pull Quote: “A building is not just a structure; it has a lot of memories and something that went up in fire for me is the memories that are lost.” Imelda Petha, the H.O.D. at the school.

Liina Masipa





Situated in Okahandja, JG Van Der Wath Secondary School hall was left in ruins after it caught fire late last month.

According to principal, Robert Williams, the incident occurred in the wee hours of 22 December 2020, witnessed by local community members and police officers.

Firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire that caused immense damage, leaving chairs, desks, the stage, ceiling, back exit doors and 80% of the hall in soot.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet - forensic investigations were carried out and the outcome is still pending.

“For me, it's a tragic accident, something that's lost for generations to come. I have been working for 19 years. Imagine all the functions we had,” Tiyoleni Ndeyanai, one of the department heads of the school said.

She explained that the building won't be restored to its former beauty and that broke her heart.

“There's a guilt inside me, a guilt that maybe I should have done more or maybe I have let the community and school down,” the principal said during an interview. He said watching nearly 100 years of history burn away with so many memories left him in utter shock.

Teachers had no words to describe how they felt. “The hall looks devastating, we don't know what or how to describe the situation,” Ndeyanai said.

Renovating the school hall and fixing all the damage would cost about N$3 million.

“If the school had money, it could be done within a year or even six months, it can be placed back in its former glory,” Williams said.

With the upcoming 100th anniversary of JG Van Der Wath, it has set back the school’s plans, functions and activities planned for this year. The principal said he will wait for the board to give directions on what should be done on whether to postpone the anniversary.

Having no hall to welcome learners back to school along with new grade eights is tremendously painful for all. Refusing to lay down, as the emblem of JG Van Wath is the soaring eagle, the school will do what it can to fly high again. Any contribution to fundraising is more than welcomed.

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