Willem's 30km school walk on an empty stomach

25 February 2020 | Education

A 16-year-old boy from Vikota village in Kavango East Region walks 30 kilometres to and from school every day while only having one meal that is prepared when he arrives home after 20:00.

Willem Kativa, a Grade 6 learner at Tara Tara Senior Primary School in Mashare village, is determined to succeed, despite seeing his peers drop out of school because of similar challenges.

He believes education is the key to rescuing his family from poverty. He wears torn casual clothes and old sandals to school, as his parents are unable to buy him a new school uniform.

Vikota village is situated about 130 kilometres east of Rundu.

Tara Tara Senior Primary School is the only school in a 30-kilometre radius that offers upper primary education, and Kativa is among the many children who walk to and from school each day.

He lives with his father. He said that for children from far-flung villages who have relatives who live near the school, it is not a problem, as they are accommodated by their family during weekdays and return home on weekends, a situation which does not apply to him.

Elephants usually pass through the villages near Tara Tara Senior Primary School and learners sometimes come across their footprints, which scares them. Some pupils become so fearful they skip school for the day and rather return home.



Daily struggle

Kativa said his days start in the wee hours of the morning, at around 04:00, when he wakes up to get ready for school, which normally takes about 15 minutes.

With no breakfast to eat, he then starts walking to school to be in time for his first lesson at 07:20.

“There is no breakfast for me. I just have to put on my clothes, take my schoolbag and then I walk to school. Because I wake up with energy, I mostly run at first to cover a distance and then I walk when I feel tired,” he said.

Most government primary schools, especially those in rural areas, run a school feeding programme where learners benefit from prepared a meal in the mornings.

However, at Tara Tara Senior Primary School, the programme is inactive because the macaroni they received at the end of last year has been used up.

According to the teachers at the school, they are still waiting for a new consignment of food.

This means that Kativa and others who attend afternoon study classes that end at 16:00 have to wait until they get home to eat.

When the final school bell rings at 16:00, Willem and his peers from Vikota village walk back home. There is no running, as they are tired.

“After school we do not run because we are tired and hungry, and also there is no need to rush,” he said.

When he arrives home at around 20:00, with his tummy grumbling, Kativa finds out what there is to eat.

Asked what a proper meal is for him, he said porridge served with mutete (traditional spinach).



Determination

Kativa aspires to become a teacher if he makes it to university.

He said a number of his friends and relatives have dropped out of school because of the long distances they had to walk, but he refuses to quit.

He believes it is only through education that he will be able to transform his life and the lives of his family members.

“I saw a number of my colleagues stop going to school, but that is not a solution. What will I be doing at home? Some say they will go to towns like Rundu and look for work, but none of them have made it yet and I refuse to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

He said he will work hard and hopefully achieve his dreams.

Teachers at the school described Kativa as well-behaved.

Some teachers said there is an urgent need for a community hostel at the school that can accommodate learners walking long distances.

They said a number of learners in the community drop out of school in grade three because schools that offer grades four to seven are far in terms of distance.

The teachers stressed that a number of prominent people, occupying high positions in government, have farms in the surrounding areas, but do not plough back into the community.



KENYA KAMBOWE

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