Water and electricity cuts leave students at home during exams

Pupils of four schools at Keetmans­hoop in the //Kharas region have been asked to stay home after their schools’ electricity and water services were suspended by the Keetmanshoop municipality due to unpaid debt of close to N$4 million.

Acting //Kharas director of education Jesmine Magerman has confirmed the water cuts.
“We are aware of the situation at various schools. It is not only state schools, but also schools belonging to the Catholic Church. But we are working to resolve the issues,” says Magerman.

St Matthias Primary School, Don Bosco Primary School, Krönlein Primary School and Suiderlig Secondary School are affected, with either the schools’ or the hostel services having been disconnected.

Parents received notifications last week and again on Sunday not to send the pupils to school due to the suspended services.

Last week, pupils from Suiderlig’s hostel collected water from the school for bathing and cooking, after the hostel’s water was cut.

Only pupils writing exams attended school, while the others stayed at the hostel or at home.

“I cannot go into details currently of what we are doing about exams and subsequent arrangements. I can also not divulge to you how much we owe. But I can tell you Suiderlig Hostel’s account has been paid and the water was reconnected,” says Magerman.

The Keetmanshoop Municipal Council announced a month ago that the municipality will be suspending unpaid water and electricity accounts of businesses, government offices and other institutions that fail to settle their long outstanding bills by 6 November.

Acting chief executive Lee Mwemba says the accrued debt of over N$85 million owed by these organisations for water, electricity and rates and taxes threatens the future sustainability of Keetmanshoop’s service delivery, therefore, the municipality opted to take an aggressive approach.

Mwemba says the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture owes N$4 million, TransNamib owes N$1,5 million, while the Ministry of Works and Transport owes N$1,5 million.

“It is unfortunate that we have to take these drastic measures. But offices had time to make a payment and make arrangements. That is what the ministry of health and others did.

“Education just had to do the same, because I’m also a parent with a child that is at an affected school and I feel bad about that. But we all have to take responsibility and pay for services rendered. However, education has started to pay, so it’s only a few more schools remaining now,” says Mwemba.

Keetmanshoop mayor McDonald Hanse, at the announcement a month ago, said it is his responsibility to ensure the well-being of residents and to make decisions that will contribute to the growth and development of the municipality.

He noted that the municipality will be implementing this strategy in three phases aimed at addressing the long standing issue of unpaid municipal accounts, securing the resources of the council and providing essential services to residents.

“Businesses, government offices and institutions will comprise phase one of the suspension of services should they fail to bring their accounts up to date by 4 November or make a payment arrangement. They will be followed by councillors and municipal staff by 3 December as they form phase two, should they also not settle their debt.

“Phase three comprises the residents. So, community members have until December to make their arrangements or face the suspension of their services starting next year,” said Hanse.

Households currently owe the council N$127 million.

Since the start of the exercise, Mwemba says residential clients have not come forward.

“We are not seeing residential clients coming to make payments or arrangements in big numbers. Perhaps they feel we are making empty threats. But the pensioners are our main customers, they are here paying and making arrangements,” says Mwemba.

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