Otjikondo in the time of Coronavirus

Hazel’s Footprints sends £10,000 to Otjikondo School in Namibia every March, to mark Hazel’s birthday. Otjikondo is very close to our hearts so it’s always so rewarding to hear how the funds have been allocated, and how the school is doing. This year, as for so many schools across the globe, Coronavirus has brought many challenges.  The school has shown its usual resilience and ingenuity in doing as much as it can to minimise the impact as far as possible for all of the children.  Here is an excerpt from a report we recently received from Gilly Stommel at Otjikondo, as well as some brilliant photos. Despite school closing, a phased reopening and children no longer able to sit at desks together, the true Otjikondo spirit resonates through the visors – just look at those happy faces!

 

 

The Annual donation made to Otjikondo on Hazel’s Birthday reached Otjikondo at the end of March 2020…we are most grateful and appreciative of the fundraising efforts and continued support. For those of us who knew and remember Hazel, the annual donation is not just a matter of money, but a constant reminder of her love of Otjikondo and the sadness we share that she is no longer enjoying the opportunities and fun she still gives to Namibian children.

2020 was a difficult year worldwide, for schools, for the economy, for anyone involved with the hospitality industry, and for Namibia, with no tourists, a disaster. Otjikondo struggled like the rest and so many of the events which Hazel’s Footprints donation supported in the past, just did not happen. Schools closed on 11 th March 2020 and everyone was sent home. In July Otjikondo opened for Grade 1-3 and in August they were joined by Grade 7. Then everyone went home for 2 weeks. New lockdowns and changing rules and regulations meant that in October only Grade 1, 4,5 and 7 were in school. Then 4 and 5 went home and 2,3 and 6 came for three weeks to write exams and get a report.

The school tried to teach via e-learning, but many had no access to the internet. Parents were stressed, the children not motivated, the days at home had no structure. I think this was a problem not only for “third world countries” and our rural situation, but for parents and children everywhere.

So in Otjikondo there were no class outings, no music week in Swakopmund, a Grade 7 Farewell Party with no parents or guests, Prize Giving only for Grade 1 and 7, who had been at school most of the time, no staff outing, no GAPS (what a disaster) so no expenses after they left, no extra curriculum materials, hardly even a football needed!!! All things we usually fund with the HF donation.

This year, the Hazels’ Footprints donation was, to some extent, used to keep things going until the Government subsidy arrived. So many parents and locals lost their jobs due to the lack of tourists. But here at Otjikondo, hostel staff worked for full pay and did all sorts of jobs around the school – painting, varnishing, tidying, gardening. Electricity bills, all the special Covid-19 sanitising needs, thermometers, masks and other fixed expenses remained – and we were glad that we had a buffer to cover these items.

When finally the government subsidy was paid we decided to use the HFT donation for the following items requested by the school for improved learning in 2021 – when we hoped things would get back to normal.

  • Additional text books – children sitting 1m apart cannot share a book!
  • A laminating machine for use in the staff room – and upgrading of posters and teaching aids
  • A computer and screen for Principal office – present one is 15 years old and keeps crashing
  • Scientific Kit for the Science lab – Principal Mrs Shilongo is a very dedicated Science teacher

Of course things have not got back to normal. However, since end of January we have had 234 children in school. My theory was if we can stay 2 weeks without covid, and we keep parents and visitors away, then we will be OK until Easter. Fingers crossed!

We are grateful for any contribution the Trust can make and will always use the donation in the interest of the Otjikondo children. We do hope and pray that many of the end of year excitements,
made possible by Hazel’s Footprints, will be able to take place in 2021!

Gilly Strommel

Otjikondo Village School

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