COVID-19 affects 1 400 Angolan pupils

By Eliaser Ndeyanale at Okalongo

THOUSANDS of children from Angola who attend school in Namibia could miss an academic year or be quarantined for 14 days before they can return to school in order to comply with Covid-19 regulations. This emerged at a meeting at Okalongo in Omusati region last week.

Seven school principals informed the meeting at the Ombandja Traditional Authority office that 1 400 learners from southern Angola attend schools in the region, but regional director of education Laban Shapange said the learners are more than 1 400 as not all of them had been counted.

The schools most frequented by Angolan learners are close to Okalongo, within walking distance from their houses in Angola. They walk from Angola to attend classes in Namibia on a daily basis passing through ungazetted entry points, it was noted. But since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, police has been arresting both Namibians and foreign nationals entering Namibia at unofficial entry points.

The principals said about 100 children from Angola attend school at Onembaba Combined School; 400 go to Ekundu Combined School; Ouvale Primary School has 291; and Ondeka Combined School has 337. St Gabriel has 30 Angolan children, Haudano Senior Secondary School 13 and John Shekudja Combined School 26.

Shapange recommended that before the learners from Angola return to school in Namibia they should be quarantined for the mandatory 14 days. “We should take this virus seriously. Let’s talk to our Angolan brothers and sisters… Let’s stay in the country and let’s identify the kids from Angola now so that they can be quarantined,” he advised those attending the meeting.

Asked when the learners would be registered to go into quarantine, the director put the question back to the teachers, parents and traditional leaders asking how the children got places in local schools if they don’t have proper documents, as per admission requirements.

“When you put these kids in our schools, where did they get documents from? Because they are not Namibians. Who gave them birth certificates? They got these documents through the village headmen, headwomen and the church.

“Why am I being asked when they are going to be registered? The same way they got into the schools should be the same way they are going to be registered,” he said, before suggesting that the affected children be registered from 1 June.

The director was also quick to point out that there is no accommodation for the learners. He suggested that they should be met by their teachers at the border. Any child who fails to show up on that day will not be accepted at school this year, meaning they will only be able to return next year.

He also proposed that schools contact the parents of the affected children so that they can come to some of the entry points and get the learners registered to go into quarantine.

Other schools that are said to have children from Angola are Eshakeno, Oshaaluwata, Ondeka, Ondombe yohumba, Oshiputu, Oikokola and Jerry Ekandjo Combined schools. Other constituencies in the Omusati region that have learners from Angola at their schools include Etayi, Ruacana and Outapi. Apart from Omusati, Angolan children also attend schools in the Ohangwena region.

Angola has so far recorded 69 Covid-19 positive cases and four related deaths.

Speaking to Confidente over the weekend, Okalongo constituency Councillor Laurentius Makana Iipinge said police officers should be deployed on the Namibia-Angola border to curb the movement of people. “Because, if there is Covid-19 in southern Angola it would be carried to Namibia because people are using ungazetted entry points to come to Namibia,” he said.

He further stated that when the decision to quarantine the children was announced, a lot of them crossed the borders in the night into Namibia to avoid being quarantined.

Ombandja chief Mathias Walaula told the meeting that he was more worried about people entering Namibia from South Africa, which is at the epicenter of SADC’s coronavirus crisis. By Monday this week, South Africa had recorded 22 583 positive Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Omusati regional health director Alfons Amoomo told the meeting that Angolan police officers are quick to allow Namibians coming from Angola to leave their country but they do not allow Angolans coming from Namibia to enter their country.

Contacted for comment, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah referred the question to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, saying: “That issue has not been brought to our ministry.”

Education minister Ester Nghipondoka said, “We are working on it, we will inform parents ourselves.”

Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga in turn referred Confidente back to the Ministry of Education for clarification.

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