by Taati Niilenge

PRE-SCHOOL owners at the coast say the extension of the lockdown to the whole of Erongo region has plunged them into a financial crisis as they are unable to continue their business ventures.

STRUGGLE CONTINUES … Pre-school owners at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are worried about their staff who have not been paid for over three months. They fear for the next few weeks as the entire Erongo region is now under lockdown.

Several pre-school owners who spoke to The Namibian yesterday urged the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Child Welfare to come to their aid as they have been unable to earn any income over the past three months of the lockdown.

The announcement of the lockdown extension means that the re-opening of their centres, also known as early childhood development centres (ECDs), will be delayed for another month.

Joyce Ndahafa who owns a pre-school at Walvis Bay, says she is worried about where her next meal will come from, especially because she has been struggling to pay rent. Ndahafa, and other pre-school teachers who spoke to The Namibian yesterday, said they do not want to reveal the names of their pre-schools for fear of victimisation by the government.

“We understand the [lockdown] situation. Our children need to be protected. If there is danger out there, we would not even allow our own children to go to school. The point is that nobody has come to our aid since the first lockdown.

“Everybody forgot about pre-schools. Some people have at least been getting food relief, but no ministry has been thinking about us. What will happen now that the lockdown is extended? We are suffering financially,” lamented Ndahafa, who has been working as a pre-school teacher for 10 years.

She says with no income, she has fallen behind on her account payments.

Another pre-school owner, Martha Erastus, says she is also struggling to feed her family.

“I would expect the ministry of gender to come to our aid, but this ministry has abandoned us completely. Other ministries are taking care of their people. Where is this ministry?” asked Erastus.

EDC owner Rachel Agustinus says she is struggling to pay rent for her pre-school. She has urged the government to come to their rescue.

The pre-school owners are also unhappy that they have mainly been receiving messages to keep their classes clean and sanitised.

They say the gender ministry sends out these messages despite knowing that pre-schools are under lockdown. They also say that representatives in the regions have not been answering their queries. Another owner of a pre-school, Maria Shiimi says even if they are informed to buy hand sanitisers when their businesses are allowed to operate, they have no money to do so.

Pre-school owner Eastus Shiwaya said the gender ministry has abandoned them for too long. “The least they can do is send thermometers and sanitisers to every centre. Where do they expect us to get them from? We are down to nothing,” said Shiwaya.

According to the gender ministry’s spokesperson, Lukas Haufiku, ECDs are privately-owned business ventures. He said they are operated as income generating activities, unlike public schools which are solely the responsibility of the government.

“This is an essential service to the nation. Government, through the ministry, offers materials for construction, learning and sets the standard for learning and stimulation through the ECD policy, as well as provides an allowance to some ECD edu-carers.

“Nonetheless, we recognise the plight of ECD owners, especially the community-owned ones that are hardest hit by the pandemic. The ministry, with development partners, is conducting a survey to determine the extent and devise the long term response to Covid-19 as its impact will be felt for the foreseeable future,” he said. He urged the centres that are going to open soon to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 health protocols, as the health of the nation cannot be compromised.

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