More than 100 complaints lodged against //Kharas education authorities

Sylvester Sibungo

//Kharas regional head of the Office of the Ombudsman Sylvester Sibungo has expressed concern about pupils approaching their offices to lay complaints against education authorities at Keetmanshoop.

Sibungo says since 2022 their office has received about 108 complaints against principals and teachers relating to classroom bans, suspension, corporal punishment and the forceful cutting of hair.

Sibungo was speaking during the //Kharas regional annual meeting of school principals at Keetmanshoop on Friday.

The principals gathering analysed the performance of pupils in the region from Grade 1 to AS level, and came up with interventions to improve on the previous academic year’s examination results and pupil performance.

Sibungo said since the start of the year, they received seven new complaints relating to gratuity payments, recruitment issues and pupil suspensions.

“You would be surprised today that our office has already received some cases against education this year. And this morning, I received seven pupils in uniform, reporting an issue at the school. I started to think this was becoming a problem,” said Sibungo.

//Kharas education director Jasmine Magerman said her office must still schedule a meeting with the Office of the Ombudsman to discuss the cases and find a way forward.

Magerman said she is aware of requests by some principals for voluntary school contributions which are given to pupils as instructions to their parents.

“I know some has to do with fees principals asked parents and given through as instructions, as if parents do not have a choice, instead that is indicated as voluntary contributions.

“The 108 + seven cases, I need more information and clarity since the ombudsman’s office only shares the very serious cases. However, we still need to meet and find a way forward,” said Magerman.

Speaking at the same meeting, Magerman expressed dismay at what she called the verbal and physical abuse of pupils by teachers.

“Let me remind you that corporal punishment is a breach of the law. It is saddening to know that corporal punishment and the administering of corporal punishment are still taking place at our schools,” she said.

Magerman called on school principals to put in concerted efforts to improve pupil performance in the region, which achieved the third spot on the Grade 11 Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate national ranking list for 2023, but 12th on the AS ranking order.

In a circular issued in September 2023, education executive director Sanet Steenkamp urged principals to refrain from asking for school fees as a mandatory request and sending students home for hairstyles.

Steenkamp said pupils, parents and teachers should at all times put their energy and strength towards issues of critical importance.

“We have expressed our stance to the schools to avoid disruptions. I cannot see why issues of hairstyles must still play a pertinent role. So, I’m really condemning this issue of parents not having oversight of the pupils.

“These issues must be handled between parents and their children, educators should call the parents in and discuss together, then when the issue cannot be resolved on school level, then the circuit inspectors must come in and then we can escalate to the director,” said Steenkamp.

Parent Kashimbidjoua Karlus said in the late 1990s, teachers and principals had control over pupils, but nowadays, children have more power.

“Pupils have more rights than responsibilities. This is how they surpass teachers, parents and run to the ombudsman’s office. Our principal used to discipline us… Nowadays, kids lack discipline… and without discipline, you can’t learn and that’s why they are running to the ombudsman,” said Karlus.

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