Against all odds

27 February 2019 | Education

Helena Shaanika, a 20-year-old San woman from Onghaanghaa village in the Omusati Region, is determined to make a success of nursing studies, so she can take her medical skills back to her community.

She enrolled this year at the University of Namibia (Unam), bucking the trend that youth from her village don't attend university.

Her village sees hundreds of marginalised San continuing a cycle of poverty and lack of education. Most learners only complete the junior primary phase, as government community schools don't offer subsequent phases.

Onamatanga, Uutsathima, Okeeholongo, Amarika, Onghaanghaa, Amaupa, Olumhelengwa, Okeendapa, Okatyeithi and Amaupa are the most affected communities in this regard. They are found in the Okahao, Otamanzi and Ruacana constituencies.

In these communities, there is no kindergarten or pre-primary education and children complete their schooling in grade 4. As a result of the revised curriculum, they will now only complete grade 3.

Shaanika said once she completes her studies, she would like to go back to her community, inspire others and be an ambassador for change. She is currently at the Unam main campus in Windhoek.

“I will start with a literacy programme for our beloved parents, so that they can be educated on the benefits of education. I will also advocate for a health centre and health-related programmes to sort out the issue of teenage pregnancies,” Shaanika said, when asked what she would do for her community upon her return.

“Our parents are the main contributors to the high rate of school dropouts because they do not have any understanding of the importance of education. Some of them can even go fetch their children from school while they are in the middle of lessons, just for them to go do housework.”

Shaanika said she completed her grade 4 at the Dr Ndeutala Angolo Primary School at Onghaanghaa in 2007. She said at the beginning of the school year they were about 20 learners in her class, but at the end of 2007 only one boy and three girls remained.

She said many of the girls dropped out due to pregnancies, while the boys were employed at cattle posts.

Shaanika said many of her childhood friends are now drinking with their parents and have nothing to do at home.

She said she continued her education at Nuukata Primary School near Oshikuku, before proceeding to Ashipala Secondary School, where she completed grades 8 to 12.

“Pregnancies at an early age and continuous births are the case in our community, due to lack of information regarding family planning. Children are not being educated about being sexually active early in their lives. Most of the people getting pregnant are schoolchildren, which forces them to drop out of school,” she said.

Shaanika said boys end up being employed as cattle herders.

She suggested that schools in marginalised communities have their curriculums extended to secondary level.

“I am part of the marginalised community and I am proud of being a member. I am therefore encouraging my peers not to feel discouraged due to the situation they are living in. We should feel proud as Namibian children and we should not let ourselves feel left out due to these little issues.

“We should work hard to achieve something great in our life; at least we should get educated and be able to develop our community. We should be crucial examples to our marginalised communities,” she said

To her fellow marginalised students at various institutions and to San school learners, she said: “The Lord had already given us hope and a future. It is now our time to make our contribution by studying hard and making that future happen for us.”

Senia Endjala, an economic planner attached to the Office of the Vice-President, confirmed that Shaanika is among the marginalised community learners that make them proud.

She said they have been supporting her and will continue with their support for her studies.



ILENI NANDJATO

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