SCHOOLGIRLS at Enoleu Combined School in Omusati region, who are from needy families, are forced to use old pieces of cloth and toilet paper as sanitary pads.
This was confirmed by the principal Elvi Kayumbu, in an interview with The Namibian this week.
Kayumbu said some of the girls cannot afford sanitary pads as they are orphans from child headed families, or their guardians are too poor to buy the sanitary towels for them.
She said some guardians have not even told the girls what is expected of them during that time of the month.
She said the school has decided to assemble girls twice a year to discuss issues pertaining to their health.
In these discussions, some children confessed that they were seeing pads for the first time, Kayumbu said.
The school received 119 sanitary towels from Pep Store Oshakati last week and these were distributed to 104 puils on Wednesday this week.
The principal said the rest will be given to the girls when the school re-opens next year.
“We are grateful to Pep Stores for the donation of 119 sanitary towels to our girls. Most of the girls are raised by old people and they don’t really discuss issues pertaining to periods with them,” Kayumbu said.
She said some of the pupils miss classes when they are on periods.
“They are not comfortable being at school. When they are absent they miss out on many things and their performance is affected,” she said.
“Some pupils use toilet paper and old clothes as sanitary pads,” she added.
Magreth Nangolo, a Grade 9 pupil, told The Namibian they buy pads at the shops for N$14 but some girls cannot afford them every month.
Head of department, Rauna Hasheela, said girls face difficulties in managing their health and they risk getting infections, their confidence suffers and they may be absent from school during their periods leading to poor performances or dropping out altogether.
She urged good Samaritans to continue donating pads so that the girls can attend school with dignity.
Pep Stores manager Kaalina Petrus said they donated the pads because there are children who cannot afford to buy sanitary pads, adding that so far Pep Oshakati had donated pads to five rural schools.
She said Pep Stores have boxes where customers can donate any amount of money towards providing sanitary pads to needy girls.
A 2014 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) report, says one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school when they are on their period.
In 2016, female Namibian parliamentarians shied away from discussing menstruation when the provision of feminine hygiene products to needy schoolgirls was raised in the National Assembly.
The motion was tabled by PDM president McHenry Venaani. Venaani at the time said the motion to the National Assembly is important to remind those who consider the issue a taboo that all matters that require developmental intervention are “the issues of MPs”.
“I am embarrassed to discuss menstruation in parliament,” said deputy speaker of the National Assembly Loide Kasingo, who was the first woman to contribute to the debate.