School hall unrepaired for 28 years
What used to be the centre of excellence in the town of Okakarara in yesteryears has now turned in an institution that has a dim present and only a mere past to celebrate. Opened in 1973, the Okakarara Secondary School today is on a route seeking its once-upon-a-time glory days when learning conditions were fit for learners to prosper.
The only high school in the town is entrusted with educating about 600 learners which is in contrast to 1000 learners that the school took in during the pre-independence era. This, the principal fingers to increased schools in the area while some parents choose to send their children to other schools that are perceived to provide a better learning environment. “Over the years, the school failed to produce satisfactory results and any parent who has a choice would send their child to another school,” said school Principal Eliah Nguarambuka.
This does not only explicate reasons for the low enrolments but other factors such as dilapidated buildings, management, low reading culture, lack of parental involvement and outside hindrances that played a role in the school’s current reputation.
Built 43-years ago, the school has long stood through the days of colonialism and continues to be an education centre for learners living in the area. It is the same school that produced products such as current Standard Bank CEO Junius Mungunda and Deputy Health Minister, Juliet Kavetuna to name but a few. While the grounds of the school could produce personalities of the above caliber in the past, the current buildings have fallen apart such that it is currently hard to have such ambitions almost a doubt.
One worrying image as you visit the school is the school hall that looks more like an abandoned building. The dreadful site of the hall is made worse by broken class windows and furniture that are not learner friendly. As per the narrative given by the school, the school hall was burned deliberately in 1988. Today, 28 years later, dark fire marks on the wall are still visible because the hall is yet to be renovated. It was only in 2012 that the government decided to install electricity (lights) and a roof over the windowless building. The current state of the hall features no windows, broken doors and a dusty floor despite it being used as an examination centre. During exams, the learners utilize the same building to write their examinations. “So you can imagine what happens during winter and during the rainy season when learners sit for exams. You can also imagine how it is when it is windy. There is a lot to be done to bring back the building to a state that we can really expect good results,” said the school head.
Beside the region governor having committed to intervene in the matter of the hall, it is estimated renovations of the hall will cost between N$4-6 million. School alumni are also expected to play a role in fixing a place that was once responsible for grooming them.
Low pass rate
The school’s low pass statistics have discouraged learners from enrolling at the school over the years said Nguarambuka. A look through the school’s recent April results showed that there was a countable few who passed just on the brink of the pass mark. Contributing factors such as discipline and the learner assessment have been pointed out by the school head who was appointed as Principal in 2013.
“Over the past years, we have tried our best as management to pull up our socks to improve the learning process from our side. However, the challenge of learners’ assessment continues to be a challenge that we are addressing,” said Nguarambuka.
With a teacher-learner ratio of 1:37, according learners the much needed attention is not an issue.
While the school’s management has its loopholes, the school head pointed out that it is almost impossible to expect good results when the levels of discipline amongst the learners is non-existent. The school head made reference to measures put in place in order to ensure discipline amongst learners. “We have a fence around the school to keep the learners confined within school premises during school hours, but then some learners would cut the fence to go outside which subsequently jeopardises their safety.”
Despite efforts from the school‘s management to bring about good results, parental involvement in the learners’ schooling has also been found wanting. The school head pointed out that it’s almost impossible to get in touch with the parents of the learners. “Sometimes you organise parent meetings but parents do not pitch. The few who come do not even form a quorum.” The outside influence has had its fair share of influence of the school’s overall performance. The school is surrounded by alcohol outlets that are seen as a major problem for the teaching environment. The school head says learners have often been seen hanging around at alcohol outlets during school hours. The school has engaged the Okakarara Business Forum to find a solution but efforts to get total silence from the shebeens during school hours has not yet materialized. “It is not conducive when there is a lot noise around the school. It disturbs learning and some of the learners are actually lured to these outlets. Also, you would find that when it is out-weekend time, parents do not come pick up the learners from the school. As a result, the learners would be wondering around these shebeens.”
In addition to the pile of challenges, Nguarambuka noted that teenage pregnancies amongst the learners is not much of a problem. However, relationships from outside are encountered on several occassions whereby community members are involved with learners. “We have had cases where a police officer had a relationship with a grade 8 learner at the school and it seems almost the entire location knew about it. These are things that government should tackle because it is wrong for the people who are entrusted with protecting and grooming the learners to be preying on those they must protect,” emphasized the school head.
While the education fraternity struggles to revive the reading culture, Okakarara Secondary School is no different. The school library is equipped with reading material but learners are forthcoming to read. The non-existing reading culture has its finger tips in the underperformance of the school.
“It is one thing to have the library equipped but it has not birthed the culture of reading at the school. It starts with the teachers. The teachers need to create activities within learning where learners are expected to go to the library. Only then will we learners read. Teachers also need to take the lead.”