About the everyday life of nine-year-old Leonie in Namibia, the pandemic and the Scholen elementary school (article in the Sulinger Kreiszeitung of 24.12.2020).
Two rooms without electricity, seven people in a small tin hut: sleeping on thin mattresses that are rolled out on the floor in the evening. Everyday life for Leonie Rheens, nine years old, in Namibia, 8,200 kilometers away. Leonie goes to elementary school in Rehoboth, and the fact that she is able to do so is thanks to the students of the “Three Friends Primary School” in Scholen/Sudwalde. They collect the school fees for their sponsored child by fulfilling different tasks for which they ask for a small donation.
Since 2009, the Lower Saxony elementary school students have been involved in sponsoring a child in Rehoboth, in close cooperation with Arthur Rohlfing’s Sonnenkinderprojekt in Schwaförden. After David and Delvilene, the Scholeners have now been supporting Leonie since 2019.
Rohlfing helped to alleviate the problems that became apparent in the African country as a result of the Corona pandemic with his project, for example by means of extensive food donations.
The causes of the emergency situation for many: The drought that has been going on for years, curfews and unemployment because most jobs are in the tourism industry, but that has completely collapsed due to the pandemic.
Namibian children also did not go to school for a long time, the institutions were closed from March to August. Online lessons? Well, while on the one hand the government has commissioned a concept for “e-learning”, many households simply lack electricity as well as the necessary equipment including wireless LAN.
Mandatory masks, distance and hygiene regulations apply in Namibia, too, and thus also in the elementary school in Rehoboth. Initially, the children had to stay strictly at home and were not allowed to leave the house. Given the very cramped living conditions, this must have been very difficult for Leonie.
And today? Thanks to the support of Arthur Rohlfing, an interview with Leonie is possible by mail. The students in Namibia have been on summer vacation since December 15.
How has Leonie experienced these months of the Corona Pandemic so far?
Leonie: It is a difficult, uncertain and fearful year. I am very afraid that I or someone in the family will get sick.
What were limitations that stood out to you? What was particularly distressing?
In March, the whole country was quarantined and we were no longer allowed to go to school, shop, or walk around in the streets. We always had to wear our masks and disinfect our hands.
We were also not allowed to visit our neighbors or play with our friends. In the evening, we were not allowed to walk on the street after 8 o’clock. We were under strict control.
What was everyday school life like in Namibia?
We studied at home. The teachers prepared worksheets and we had to work through them in two weeks and hand them in again. We also had to learn by ourselves. My mom picked up homework every other week at school.
Later in July we were allowed to go back to school under very strict conditions. We were divided into two groups. 20 students per class and were only allowed to go to school every other day, until today.
We wear our masks and got “face tags” at school that we have to wear in class.
We have to wash our hands whenever we enter or leave the school grounds. Also before and after each break. We have to be 1.5 meters away from each other at recess, and we are also not allowed to play with classmates. That’s bad.
How has your everyday life changed?
A lot has changed in my life. I have to wear a mask everywhere, disinfect my hands, and keep my distance. I miss going to school regularly so much.
Can you meet friends again?
By now, I can meet my friends again and play with them.
How does your family celebrate Christmas?
In Namibia, we celebrate Christmas Day on December 25.
First we go to church and then we have a big meal. If my mother has money, we go to the mall and she buys us ice cream. After that I play with my friends.
What wishes do you have for the new year?
I wish that my mother gets a job nearby. Then we will be better off.
What are you most looking forward to when the restrictions are lifted and a “normal” life is possible?
I would be happy if I could go back to school every day and see my teachers and friends there.
I wish for my life without a mask back and that we don’t have to be afraid of infecting each other or walking around with a deadly disease anymore. That we can hug each other again. I wish that very much.
Mr. Rohlfing, what do the students at Scholen Elementary School do for their sponsored child?
Arthur Rohlfing: All the students at the “Drei-Freunde-Grundschule” work in their free time to earn the sponsorship money for Leonie, such as mowing the lawn, washing the car, going shopping.
Principal Renate Mohrmann handed over the donations for Leonie. Unfortunately without the presence of the students. I regret this very much. I would have liked to thank the students.
I very much hope that next year I can again receive the donations in the usual way.