In Namibia the vast majority of young people are literate and attend school. There are many primary schools throughout the country; however, there are far fewer secondary schools, and they are usually situated in towns or large villages. As a result, many youngsters registering for secondary school also have to apply for accommodation at the school hostel.
Life in a school hostel is very different from any other lifestyle. For a start, your parents are not around. At first, this may seem like an advantage - the first step towards freedom. However, parents and family are also there to give us guidance and advice. Freedom goes hand-in-hand with responsibility, a concept many young Namibians do not understand. In the hostel, youngsters are not left entirely on their own - there are matrons, hostel superintendents and teachers. But this is not the same level of supervision as one would find at home. Living at home often means living under the supervision of an adult, with the occasional influence of your peers. Living in the hostel often means living under the influence of your peers, with the occasional influence of an adult.
It is therefore not surprising that life in a hostel can become challenging. To begin with, peers can be bullies. It is often reported by young learners that they are being bullied by the older children. Furthermore, peers can put pressure on you, for instance to start dating boyfriends or girlfriends, or to try alcohol, cigarettes, dagga or other drugs. Finally, peers can influence your behaviour by encouraging you to go for sugar daddies or mommies, to be disrespectful towards adults or to abandon your principles and values. But peers are not all bad. They can also help you with your school work and encourage you to improve your marks. They can care for you and comfort you when you feel down. They can offer you a shoulder on to cry when you need one.
[...] If the Namibian Government is to provide high quality education to all Namibians, there is a great deal that must still be done. Investing money and energy in well designed and equipped, hygienic hostels would be an important start. It is almost certain that learners living in a proper hostel are more successful than learners living with no flush toilets or running showers, that learners sleeping in their own beds are more successful than learners sleeping on the floor. Listen to the comments made by learners. Hear their complaints and requests. If we all work together, we can create a better learning, living and protective environment for learners in hostels. And hopefully, we can support the efforts of our children to become better educated, balanced citizens.