Saturday 17 April 2021
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Mao Zedong hostel remains closed

The hostel at Chairman Mao Zedong Secondary School in Windhoek-which was donated to government last year by China but was never opened-looks set to remain closed indefinitely because of government’s precarious financial position.
Since opening its doors in March 2016, the hostel was never operational due a chain of events.
Initially, the hostel could not be opened because the ministry had to install equipment for the hostel. After that was done, government finances ran out and the ministry could not recruit hostel workers.
Since the hostel cannot operate without the kitchen, over 200 learners who could have been accommodated in the hostel are now forced to walk long distances to and from school – and struggle with finding accommodation – despite there being a hostel facility at the school.
More so, the hostel predicament at the Chinese-funded school comes at a time when the demand for learner accommodation and housing in general in Windhoek are at its highest.
The state-of-the-art school, which caters for Grades 8-12 and has the capacity to accommodate 690 learners, culminated from a bilateral agreement signed between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and Government of the Republic of Namibia in August 2011.
The school is well-equipped with facilities comprising hostel accomodation for 220 students, staff accommodation, a dining hall, 23 classrooms, chemistry and physics laboratory, computer laboratory, music room, multi-purpose hall and a sport field. It was built for N$120 million.
Upon a visit to the school earlier this month to ascertain claims that the hostel was not operational, The Patriot reporters found the hostel facilities locked, showing no sign of a facility that was under utilisation.
Khomas education director Gerard Vries said, when approached that the facility was never opened, but indicated that depending on the availability of funds, the hostel might be opened next year.
“The Mao Zedong School has a hostel but we first to acquire kitchen equipment for the school because it was part of the obligation of the Ministry of Education, not the Chinese Embassy.
So that (kitchen equipment) was installed, the electrical fitting to cater for those equipment were installed now we are busy making a staff establishment for the hostel,” Vries said while responding to questions from this newspaper.
He said the ministry is struggling to deploy staff members to the school due to limited funds at its disposal.
“Based on this financial position, we are trying to redeploy staff that from other schools, especially where there is overstaffing, to go to that hostel (Mao Zedong),” he said.
He added: “If finances allow, we want to start accommodating learners possibly from next year onwards. But this will be dependent on the finances that are available.”
He added: “The hostel can only be activated if we (Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture) are able to carry the salary bill of the staff that must oversee the learners. And remember, this brings a lot of additional costs, food, electricity and so forth.”
Despite being the top beneficiary as far as the national budget is concerned, the education ministry finds itself trapped in a web of financial difficulties.
Earlier this year, there were news reports that the education ministry was not financially well-positioned to sustain hostel boarding learners throughout 2017 under its current N$11.97 billion budget allocation.
Talks were that the situation is so dire that beyond the second term (current school term), the Education Ministry was considering to close some hostels at public schools countrywide.
When approached at the time by this publication, Education Permanent Secretary Sanet Steenkamp downplayed the existence a possibility of nationwide hostel closure at public schools.
A huge chunk of the ministry’s budget caters for operations while little is spared for developmental purposes. The ministry has over 30 000 staff members.
The ministry has a total teaching staff of 27,886, which includes 18,140 female and 9,746 male teaching staff, deployed in 1,796 schools countrywide. The rest are administrative staff.
Out of the N$11.97 billion overall total budget of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for 2017, a whopping N$10 billion has been allocated towards the payment of staff-related expenditure, such as salaries and allowances.
These include basic remuneration, contributions to the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) scheme and other conditions of service. The N$10 billion translates to 85 percent of the total budget, while the remaining portion (about N$585 million) is meant for infrastructure development.

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