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Published: January 22nd 2010
This is one of the rooms in the homestead. The family is sitting outside in the shade.
Oh my goodness, where to begin?!? I never would have thought that 5 days could leave such an impact on my life and make me view things in all new ways. We left CasaBlanca at 7:30 am on Thursday morning on a truck made for safaris and touring. We met Mr. T who was our driver and guide but I would also say that he was a teacher. We made a few stops on our way up to Opuwo which is in the north-west corner of the country. Water was a must and we also wanted to stop in Outjo (pronounced oocho) to give a list of names to a man that carves nuts into keychains. We had 92 names for him to finish in 5 days before we came back through that town. On our way we saw many different animals along the sides of the road like warthogs, baboons, giraffes, zebras, Red hartebeest, Kori bustard, Helmeted guineafowl and of course cows, goats, and donkeys.
We finally got into Opuwo at 5:30 pm after 10 hours of driving. We stayed at a hotel called Ohakane Guest House. It was very nice and we had a delicious
The HImba homestead.
dinner Thursday night. We stayed in pairs and so we decided to room with someone that we were neither roommates with back at CasaBlanca or at the same school site with. In fact we did this every night during this 5 day adventure which meant that we were able to get to know more girls on our trip.
On Friday morning we went to the headquarters of the Ondao Mobile Schools and met with the principal, Mr. Kapi and three Head of Departments. They explained how these schools were started and how they are functioning now and then we were able to go out to one of the school sites to see how it was. The administrators had told us that the school we were going to visit was supposed to be in session but could not start until they had food to feed the children, and the government had not sent it yet, so we decided to pitch in some money to buy maize, sugar, oil and candy to take so that the teacher could start teaching.
One of the HODs, John accompanied us to the school so that he could introduce us to the teacher and
An elderly grandmother.
the people of the nearby homestead. When we arrived at the school we saw a tent with one side missing and a woman with wire in her hand trying to fix the other side. The tent was about 30 feet long and 15-20 feet wide. Inside was a smaller camping tent, which we found out was where the teacher and her three daughters lived during the school year, four tables - one of which was broken, a chalkboard, and a few boxes of well-worn books and half used notebooks. This classroom must hold 60-70 learners at a time. This is not different from the other tent schools. There are 45 units and 81 teachers each with about 70 students. Although they were created as mobile schools because of the nomadic tradition of the Himba people they were meant to serve, many of these people have started to settle and now only 2 or three are actually moving around with the tribes. These schools provide some flexibility to the people in this area. These families raise animals and live off of the land. They need children to help look after the animals and so the teacher can work with the families
Some of the family members.
to decide when school should be held so that the children can still take of their duties. For example, a young boy can go and bring the cattle closer to the homestead in the morning and then go to school at 10 rather than school starting at 7 and him missing half or the whole day. This allows children to be educated while keeping alive traditional culture for the Himba and Herero families.
The woman that we met was Trudy, the teacher for that school. We immediately became very emotionally as we talked to our colleague and learned about her situation and lack of resources. She was very grateful for the food and was excited that she could have the kids come for a week and she could feed them and begin teaching.
After we left the school, we went down the road to a homestead. We waited in the truck while John got approval for us to be there and taking pictures. He also told them that we brought them some food as a thank you for their hospitality. While we were waiting, Mr. T came to the back of the truck and spoke to us about
how this experience changed him and his view of education. He said that he has brought many tourists up to see the Himba tribes but they are there for selfish reasons like getting photos. He realized that day when we were at the school that people can come for different reasons and make a difference in the lives of those they are visiting. He had seen the tent before but never knew what it was and when he learned that it was a school and that some maize and cooking oil allowed the children to attend, he knew that the government needed to make some changes. He even said that he is going to write a letter because other Namibians need to know about the situation of these schools. Almost everyone was crying as he was talking. The fact that our guide was touched by this experience was so unexpected and emotionally overwhelming.
This family was so welcoming and allowed us to go inside the main room/hut, which is rarely allowed. We also saw the holy fire and a grave of an ancestor. We met an elderly grandmother, and some of the group even bought jewelry from the women. It
We saw giraffes on our way up.
was a wonderful experience being a guest of this family and learning about some of their traditions and how they are being supported by the Ondao schools.
As we were driving the 30 minutes back to our hotel I began to cry. I was so overwhelmed with emotion gratefulness for being able to experience this. I wondered to myself, How in the world do I get to be here and experiencing all of this and what in the world am I going to do about it?
When we got back to the hotel, a group of us sat together with the intent of journaling and while many of us did get some things written down, the main focus ended up being about our day and how our lives had been changed forever. I knew that this experience was never going to happen again and how I would never forget it, it would be nearly impossible to explain it to someone else. There was an instant sense of bonding within our group as we had all experienced it together.
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