Since November 2020, we have been providing financial support to the Baumgartsbrunn elementary school in Namibia. The 200 students come mainly from farms and unofficial settlements in the capital Windhoek. The majority of them belong to the Damara ethnic group, one of the most disadvantaged population groups in Namibia. During a visit in 2019, we first learned about the boarding school and that it is at risk of closure. The school itself is run by the government, but things beyond the classroom, such as the boarding school, maintenance of the associated accommodation and other buildings, and food are not funded by the state.
Education for a better future
School attendance in Namibia is compulsory. Nevertheless, 11% of all children cannot go to school today. Almost 30% of the students do not finish elementary school. This is mostly due to financial reasons: many families cannot afford the necessary school materials and sometimes the children have to work for the survival of the family. The school “Baumgartsbrunn” is a boarding school, where also the children who live far away from the next school can learn. In addition, they are offered a safe environment, where they can play with their peers in their free time and do not have to work. Only local teachers teach at the school. Currently, six of them are female and three are male. The director is very committed to providing the best possible learning environment for the children.
History of the farm school Baumgartsbrunn
In 1972, the school was founded by the German emigrant Helmut Bleks, when he noticed that the children of his farm workers could not read, write and calculate. Its foundation can therefore not be separated from the problematic colonial conditions that we address in our modules. In the following years, the school was expanded more and financed by the Helmut Bleks Foundation, and later by the bürger:sinn:stiftung. In 2005, the school finally passed into state ownership.
We are very aware of the problems of quasi-colonial power relations in the founding and management of the school until the recent past, and we are critical of them. The colonial entanglements of Germany and Namibia, especially until the end of the colonial period in 1918, entail a special responsibility for us as a German NGO. This makes it all the more important for us to act in a reflective manner and to cooperate on an equal footing. Due to the relevance of the school today for the reality of life of the local people, it is the logical step for us to reflect on the problems of colonial origins and power relations, but at the same time to ensure the ongoing financing of the school. Much property in Namibia today is still in the hands of white colonial heirs. While the colonial name of the school is preserved in honest reflection, in “Baumgartsbrunn” the management of the school is ensured by local professionals.