New partner school found: Sonnenkinderprojekt and high school in Varrel decide on student exchange

The Varrel secondary school is the new partner school of the Sonnenkinderprojekt Namibia, agreed by (from left) Udo Bechtel, Christina Stegemann-Auhage, Arthur Rohlfing, Julia Gaßmann, Carola Labbus, Julien Anik and Heinrich Kammacher. The exchange between the schools should start as soon as possible. Photo: S. Wendt

Varrel – The first heat wave is making Germany sweat and Namibian schoolchildren go on winter vacation on July 15. How can one come together there? Discovering similarities and differences, in short; cooperation is what it means when the association Sonnenkinderprojekt Namibia (SKP) establishes contacts between schools on both sides.

“Together with Namib High School from Swakopmund and Varrel Secondary School, we would like to establish a North-South partnership for climate protection,” explains Arthur Rohlfing, chairman of the Sonnenkinderprojekt, adding to the (short) list of German partner schools. At both schools, the topics of global environmental degradation and knowledge about climate change and climate protection are to be promoted.
The international student exchange is accompanied at the Varrel secondary school by teachers Christian Stegemann-Auhage and Julien Anik. And they have prepared students well for Namibia and the work of the Sun Children Project. “They quizzed me pretty well, I really started sweating there,” Rohlfing remembers one conversation and has to laugh. The SKP initiator was pleased that the students were so well informed and, above all, interested.

Promoting cooperation with German and Namibian schools and mutual understanding – his life’s work. And a work for which he now has an equally committed team working alongside him. Udo Bechtel is one of them. He now has a lot of work to do: there is to be an introductory meeting for those responsible for the new partner schools. The formalities are extensive, because this meeting is sponsored within the framework of the development policy school exchange programs (ENSA). Teachers, two students and SKP board prepare for the meeting. “We can already email down the video tour of the fifth graders through the high school, originated in the pandemic,” suggests Carola Labbus, acting principal of OBS. And Rohlfing, Stegemann-Auhage, Labbus, Bechtel, Anik, the mayor of the joint municipality, Heinrich Kammacher, and the acting vice principal, Julia Gassmann, are already in the middle of planning the new partnership.

Partner schools

How do the students live? What do the schools look like? “Luxury that a child in Germany has a whole room to himself. In a size that in Namibia offers shelter to a whole family,” is the comment from Namibia. Despite the upcoming vacations in Germany and Namibia, the teachers want to do everything they can to get the planning underway as quickly as possible.

Rohlfing points out that the exchange program makes it possible for students who are not financially well off to participate. For Kammacher, as chairman of the high school’s booster club, this goes without saying: “As a booster club, we are very happy to help and support this contribution to international understanding.” The fact that there is something else besides the affluent society and that committed students and teachers are thinking about the future – that makes him extremely happy.

In addition to getting to know each other and having fun, the exchange also means that the students take part in the lessons in the host country during the annual visit. The Namibian students are accommodated in families here. The German students there are not; the group lives in a boarding house. Rohlfing makes it clear that it is a very fine line to even let guests look into the poor accommodations.

Climate projects

Drought and water scarcity have accompanied Namibians for years. Rohlfing calls the project “climate scouts,” when students from both schools work together on climate projects. “Our joint municipality has a lot to offer: biogas, solar, wind and environmental protection,” explains Stegemann-Auhage.

To what extent will climate projects become a permanent fixture at the high school? Carola Labbus has yet to answer that question: A shortage of staff means that the climate topics from the specifications are initially on the timetable. Solar, wind, well construction: topics that have been on the agenda of the Sun Children’s Project for years. Rohlfing reports on projects that have been carried out and provides insights into everyday life in the Southwest African country. The association promotes not only ideally, but supports several projects financially. That is why donations are important; funding from the federal and state governments is not enough. The aim is for the school groups to be able to visit each other by 2023 if possible. “It doesn’t always have to be partner schools in England or France, why not Namibia?” says Rohlfing, who thinks Africa is the most beautiful continent. The Varrel secondary school will provide information about the new partner school at the “Open House” on July 8, although Europe will actually be the topic there.