They meet up with old friends, make new ones and trade stories about the adventures they experienced during the holidays.
For Grade eight learners, it represents the day that determines where they will be in the school hierarchy until they graduate. It is every parent’s joy.
However, for one parent it turned into an uncomfortable day for her and her child who was not prepared for what lay ahead.
The mother (who will remain unnamed for fear of her child being victimised) felt that other learners were subjecting the Grade eight children to what looked like an initiation/hazing ritual.
The learners wore plastic bags over their feet, some had blown up latex gloves in their hair, others socks over their arms, all the while obeying silly requests from the Learner’s Representative Council (LRCs) at the school, like sucking their thumbs.
While some may have seen it as harmless fun, the mother felt that it was merely a mild version of initiation/hazing rituals, which the Government has forbidden at schools.
Embrentia van Vuuren and Joy Hambabi, both head of departments (HODs) at Jan Möhr High School denied the initiation/hazing accusation.
They stated that the school was very strict on the matter, and explained that what had taken place was merely a form of play to break the ice.
The HODs said that it was the first time they heard of this complaint because the school had abolished initiation/hazing a long time ago.
“Senior learners are not allowed to have any contact with the Grade 8 learners. The only ones who are allowed to interact with them are the SRC who do the ice-breakers with them. They wear hats, name tags, plastic over their shoes and sing songs,” van Vuuren explained.
She added that parents received a short briefing document once they had registered their children that clearly stated what they should wear on the first day of school, and which they had the right to decline.
“We have an open door policy so parents can come and talk to us if they are not pleased,” she said.
Some schools in the region, however, have stricter policies on the initiation/hazing practices.
Grade eight students at schools like Windhoek Technical School reported that they did not have any initiation/hazing or ice-breakers on their first day.
They are not allowed to have contact with senior students and LRCs are strategically placed around the school should they need something outside of class times.
“Some senior students wanted to haze us by beating us after school but the LRC stopped them. They (LRC) walked out with us and waited with us until our parents fetched us,” a Grade eight learner recounted.
Approached for comment, the Deputy Director of Education for the Khomas Region Angeline Steenkamp said in a statement that it was the first time that the ministry had heard of the case.
She declined to comment on the matter, saying she did not know what fully transpired.
She, however, said they had spoken to the Principal of the school on Thursday and instructed him to cease the practice.
“We have spoken to the principal and we have informed him to stop that practice at the school immediately – whether or not it was an initiation or ice-breaker.
“Therefore, I believe or hope learners will not be initiated anymore. They have to make it educational with a proper orientation programme,” she said in the statement.
She urged parents to approach the principals at their respective schools if they suspect any initiation/hazing cases, and if the issue was not resolved they could contact the office of the Inspector of Education.
Section 56 (1) of the Education Act clearly states that any teacher or any other person employed at a state/private school or hostel is guilty of misconduct if he /she imposes or administers corporal punishment or causes it to be imposed.
Therefore, allowing other learners to administer the corporal punishment would also be committing misconduct.
Corporal punishment extends beyond physical harm to mental and psychological harm that someone may inflict through word or deed.
Regulation 80 of the Education Act, Section 1 (a) speaks of the minimum standards of health and safety which have been determined by the Minister of Education.
These standards clearly outline that a teacher may not humiliate a learner physically, emotionally or psychologically in any form.
It also states that a teacher may not administer any degrading act on a learner. Some may see compelling a learner to dress and act in a silly manner as degrading.
By implication, the authorities can charge a teacher who allows learners to initiate fellow learners with misconduct.
Chapter 4 (4.9) of the Hostel guide, also clearly forbids any form of initiation.
The Ministry of Education, in partnership with UNICEF released a booklet based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which educates both teachers and learners on how to create a safe environment in schools, and it highlights the issue of initiations.
The booklet cites the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) stating that violence in Namibia takes many forms, including being verbally teased, insulted or intimidated; being physically hit, kicked or punched; being made to feel threatened with harm, being forced to do something they felt was wrong or being forced to do things with their bodies against their will.
The Namibia School-based Student Health Survey, conducted in 2004 with over 6000 learners, revealed that 38 percent of learners missed one day of school in the 30 days prior to the survey because they felt unsafe at school, or on the way to/from school.