Line drawn between initiation and orientation at Swakop school
Character building, discipline and academic performance are considered respectable outcomes of orientation for new school learners while practices that could involve physical and psychological abuse under the guise of initiation of new learners is against the law.
This was the agreement between parents of Grade 8 learners of Namib High School at Swakopmund, the school’s principal, Roosmarie September, and Erongo’s education director Ernfriede Stephanus during a meeting recently after the school was threatened with legal action after alleged abuse during the school annual initiation of Grade 8s started last week in public schools.
It was alleged that some of these learners at the school were subject to physical and emotional abuse. The parents, through their attorney, Richard Metcalfe, warned the school to stop the initiation, as this was a contravention of Section 8 of the Basic Education Acts of 2020 that provides for the “Prohibition of physical and mental violence and initiation practices against learners”.
In a nutshell, it states that any practice, be it physical, mental, emotional or psychological, that may result in the injury or degradation of the character of a learner, constitutes a criminal offense.
September provided a report at the meeting in which she highlights the positive aspects pertaining to, what is fitly termed, an “orientation programme”. “Every year we start with about 180 Grade 9 learners who come from different schools and different cultures and economic backgrounds, hence our orientation programme,” she said.
According to her the goal of the programme is to build relationships among new learners; develop team spirit; create “everlasting” memories; and help Grade 8s understand and appreciate the school’s culture and traditions.
She explained that the new learners are divided into small groups with learners of other schools and give them experiences where they have to rely on one another. “In this way, we encourage them to get to know each other and form new bonds. The intent is to build character and foster school culture and make the learners one; the intent is, and was, never, to cause any learner harm,” she said, adding that the orientation was done under strict supervision of the learners’ representative council teachers.
The parents, through Metcalfe, emphasised the need for the latter to ensure bullying would not take place.
It was further agreed that the prime concern of orientation would be for the strengthening of character and discipline and the “excellence in all spheres for which Namib High School is known for”, and that this intention would be ensured and preserved. In fact, learners also will at all times be expected to subject themselves to such discipline “without exemption”.