Former AMECS pupils protest proposed closure

Former AMECS pupils protest proposed closure

A PROPOSAL by government that the historic African Methodist Episcopal Community School (AMECS) at Gibeon should be done away with has been met with stiff opposition from the school’s former pupils and teachers.

“This is uncalled for, considering the schools great contribution to the liberation struggle of Namibia,” said former teacher Pintile Davids, who is now the Director of Rural People’s Institute for Social Empowerment (Rise) and President of the Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU). The government proposal is based on a claim that management was struggling to maintain the school.Davids said the creation of AMECS was a direct response to the oppressive and colonial bantu education and if AMECS is closed, that would be tantamount to non-appreciation of the school’s history.”We are now playing in the hands of those who were against its creation and it would appear that those who were against are victors today,” said a visibly disturbed Davids.Former AMECS pupil Robert Emvula also protested the idea of closure.”Our former school has a good history and if that is done, it would be a big blow to us and to the Gibeon community as well,” said Emvula, a full-time shop steward for the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) at Rosh Pinah Zinc Mine.He pleaded with government and donor agencies to financially assist the school, to ensure its continued existence.”There is no way I can go with that (the closure idea),” he said.Another former pupil said: “I owe AMECS and I don’t think if that school was not there, I would be here,” said Magistrate Leah Shaanika, who spent her primary and secondary education at the School.AMECS has a Primary and Secondary section.She said AMECS was also the first private school in the south, where the best and no-Bantu education was installed from day one.Shaanika said it was not too late to put things in order at AMECS.”I know even Martin Luther High School at some point had financial problems but, things were later rectified to keep it running,” said Shaanika, suggesting all former pupils and students of AMECS should form a forum, where they could discuss how to make financial and material contributions to renovate the school and put it on a sound financial standing.”It is not late to put things in order.It is more of a moral issue,” said Shaanika, who was a tough debater during her AMECS days.She said there are many former AMECS learners and teachers in different professions and they can make contributions to improve the situation at the school.Marthinus Gwai, a former pupil, said AMECS’ founder, former Deputy Prime Minister Hendrik Witbooi, should arrange a meeting with parents who have children at the school to discuss how to keep the school alive.Gwai, who is a teacher at Eden Primary School at Okahandja, said they should approach donors for funds.He also felt that Witbooi has not been keeping a close eye on the school to see what the short comings and challenges were.Efforts to get a comment from Witbooi were fruitless.The school was established in 1979 by the Gibeon community, who were led by Witbooi, as a protest against Bantu education.It introduced English as a medium of instruction with Grade 10 using the Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (Boleswa) curriculum while Grade 12 followed the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), a Cambridge system.But today, the community school is allegedly finding it difficult to pay electricity bills and to maintain its buildings, many of which have cracks and broken windows and doors.”They cannot cope to sustain themselves,” said Ben Boois, the Director of Education for the Hardap region.He told The Namibian last week that a consensus was emerging from management and parents who have agreed to the Ministry’s proposal to close the school and pupils be transferred to other schools in Gibeon.At the moment, government is paying teachers’ salaries and also gives a subsidy to the school for its hostel needs.Boois said the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) called for quality education but in Gibeon, it made sense to reduce the number of schools to two only (one Primary School and one Secondary) as this would allow authorities to manage them better.He said the total number of pupils is 1 442 and there were currently five schools in the settlement with a population of only about 6 000 people.Boois said a consensus has therefore emerged that AMECS and Spellmeyer Primary School should be amalgamated into other government schools at Gibeon.The move, said Boois, is planned to take off at the beginning of next year.But, he said there were still some people who were not happy with the idea, as they felt AMECS was their pride.Classes at AMECS are to be turned into a community learning and development centre while the hostel will be turned into a community guest house.The Spellmeyer Primary School will be turned into a skills development centre for youths.The government proposal is based on a claim that management was struggling to maintain the school.Davids said the creation of AMECS was a direct response to the oppressive and colonial bantu education and if AMECS is closed, that would be tantamount to non-appreciation of the school’s history.”We are now playing in the hands of those who were against its creation and it would appear that those who were against are victors today,” said a visibly disturbed Davids.Former AMECS pupil Robert Emvula also protested the idea of closure.”Our former school has a good history and if that is done, it would be a big blow to us and to the Gibeon community as well,” said Emvula, a full-time shop steward for the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) at Rosh Pinah Zinc Mine.He pleaded with government and donor agencies to financially assist the school, to ensure its continued existence.”There is no way I can go with that (the closure idea),” he said.Another former pupil said: “I owe AMECS and I don’t think if that school was not there, I would be here,” said Magistrate Leah Shaanika, who spent her primary and secondary education at the School.AMECS has a Primary and Secondary section.She said AMECS was also the first private school in the south, where the best and no-Bantu education was installed from day one.Shaanika said it was not too late to put things in order at AMECS.”I know even Martin Luther High School at some point had financial problems but, things were later rectified to keep it running,” said Shaanika, suggesting all former pupils and students of AMECS should form a forum, where they could discuss how to make financial and material contributions to renovate the school and put it on a sound financial standing.”It is not late to put things in order.It is more of a moral issue,” said Shaanika, who was a tough debater during her AMECS days.She said there are many former AMECS learners and teachers in different professions and they can make contributions to improve the situation at the school.Marthinus Gwai, a former pupil, said AMECS’ founder, former Deputy Prime Minister Hendrik Witbooi, should arrange a meeting with parents who have children at the school to discuss how to keep the school alive.Gwai, who is a teacher at Eden Primary School at Okahandja, said they should approach donors for funds.He also felt that Witbooi has not been keeping a close eye on the school to see what the short comings and challenges were.Efforts to get a comment from Witbooi were fruitless.The school was established in 1979 by the Gibeon community, who were led by Witbooi, as a protest against Bantu education.It introduced English as a medium of instruction with Grade 10 using the Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (Boleswa) curriculum while Grade 12 followed the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), a Cambridge system.But today, the community school is allegedly finding it difficult to pay electricity bills and to maintain its buildings, many of which have cracks and broken windows and doors.”They cannot cope to sustain themselves,” said Ben Boois, the Director of Education for the Hardap region.He told The Namibian last week that a consensus was emerging from management and parents who have agreed to the Ministry’s proposal to close the school and pupils be transferred to other schools in Gibeon.At the moment, government is paying teachers’ salaries and also gives a subsidy to the school for its hostel needs.Boois said the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) called for quality education but in Gibeon, it made sense to reduce the number of schools to two only (one Primary School and one Secondary) as this would allow authorities to manage them better.He said the total number of pupils is 1 442 and there were currently five schools in the settlement with a population of only about 6 000 people.Boois said a consensus has therefore emerged that AMECS and Spellmeyer Primary School should be amalgamated into other government schools at Gibeon.The move, said Boois, is planned to take off at the beginning of next year.But, he said there were still some people who were not happy with the idea, as they felt AMECS was their pride.Classes at AMECS are to be turned into a community learning and development centre while the hostel will be turned into a community guest house.The Spellmeyer Primary School will be turned into a skills development centre for youths.

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