Lawmakers have expressed concerns over the decision of the Amitofo Care Centre(ACC) management’s decision to ban learners and staff members from consuming meat at the school.
The concerns are contained in a report on the ACC compiled by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs following a visit to the school in June 2017 following reports that children are forced to adhere to a Buddhist philosophy: meat is banned on site and the orphans must attend two ceremonies of worship at the Buddhist temple per day.
The Amitofo Care Centre (ACC), which is located on the Okahandja-Hochfeld road, was founded and directed by a Buddhist clergy with an aspiration and mission to directly rear and care for orphans of Africa within the humanitarian and educational umbrella.
“Members observed with concern about the issue of children and staff are not allowed to eat meat.”
During last year’s visit, Heinrich ‘Swapo’ Ndume gave the committee a brief background on the centers’ operations and explained why meat consumption at the school is banned. The reason provided by Mr. Ndume was that not only meat can provide a balanced diet, hence the food eaten by children at the centre is a 100% full balanced diet,” reads the three-page report dated 26 June 2017.
It reads further that: “On the issue of culture and religion in relation to Bhuddism, Mr. Ndume stated that children are not connected to Buddhist since Namibian culture is being practiced at the centre.
In addition, Bhudda images exist at the centre because the founder and donor is a Bhuddist, therefore, after the donor’s visit to the centre, they will praise and worship their Bhudda.”
Ndume said ACC operates on a full Namibian curriculum system, adding that the Chinese language is compulsory. He said it is offered as an extra subject during the afternoons together with Mediation, Marshall Arts and Kung-Fu.
Despite huge public outcry over the operations of outside Okahandja, the lawmakers say they have found nothing unusual when they visited the school last year.
Amongst the concerns circulating in Okahandja is the school’s admission criteria which is focused on vulnerable communities which obligates a parent/guardian to sign a document which places these scholars in the care of the centre until they are 18 years of age.
The school sets at its aim the indoctrination of children with Chinese culture, language and a Buddhist philosophy. From as early as 05h00 in the morning, these pupils are exposed to an exclusive Chinese diet, worship in the temple at 05h30 and martial arts training at 06h30.
From 07h40 -12h00 a Namibian curriculum is taught for Grade 1, and after an afternoon nap, Chinese martial arts classes resume which round up at 17h00.
The management of the centre appealed to the committee for assistance with regard to registration of the centre with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.
The council also donated 70ha to Chinese-owned Amitofo Care Centre to set up a school.
The centre’s board is chaired by Heinrich ‘Swapo’ Ndume, who is married to Pohamba’s daughter. Former first lady, Penehupifo Pohamba, is the patron of the school.
Chinese invasion in Namibia has been escalating in recent years, with many Chinese companies headhunting well-connected locals to ensure ease of doing business in the country.
Questions are being asked as to why the council donated about 70ha to a Chinese firm, while such privileges are hardly extended to locals. Situated on land equal to 70 soccer fields, Okahandja Mayor Congo Hindjou last year confirmed that the previous council resolved to donate the land to the Amitofo Centre without ministerial approval.
Hindjou confirmed the donation, even though it was made by his predecessors, but questioned the rationale behind the move.
According to the centre, the main principles of ACC are based on local African culture, Chinese culture and Buddhist philosophy, which are given to the orphans in need.
The centre comprises a Buddhist temple, hostels and classrooms.