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Mothers risk lives collecting cans

2023-01-11  Victoria Kaapanda

Mothers risk lives collecting cans

ONGWEDIVA - Some parents in Oshakati are risking their lives, collecting empty cans and scrap metals at odd hours to earn cash for their children’s stationaries. 

Some women were seen roaming around at bars and refuse bins late at night in Uupindi and Oshoopala which are considered as the most dangerous locations in Oshakati. 

They collect scrap metals, mostly empty cans which they sell at local scrapyards. They say they use the money to buy stationeries. 

Victoria Shitaatala, from Uupindi informal settlement, in an interview with New Era said she did domestic work during the festive season but the money was not enough to cover all the expenses for her children’s school. 

A friend introduced her to a scrapyard in Oneshila a month ago and she has been collecting scrap metals for extra income. 

On a good day, she can make N$100, which she says is better than nothing. 

“I am a mother and grandmother to eight children who all depend on me. I don’t get any assistance from the government, so I have to try my best to feed them and send them to school,’’ she narrated. 

She further said she should not be questioned about the parents of the grandchildren since she doesn’t have an answer. 

“I go to sheebens around 02h00 in the morning when bars are closed to pick up empty cans. I would than squash them to tiny sizes and put them in a bag. The heavier the bag, the more money I get,” she said. 

Shitaatala said she is aware that Uupindi is a dangerous location, but she cannot do anything about it, as she is ready for whatever comes, but she thanks God that nothing happened to her so far. 

She asked who would buy stationeries for her children if she does not go out of her way to look for money. 

Liina Petrus from Oshoopala informal settlement has been collecting scrap since September last year. 

“When bars are closed, it is the right time for us to collect our scrap. No one is disturbing you, during the day, bar owners chase us away unless you go to the dumpsite. 

“Collecting scrap has changed my life. I am unemployed but now I have gained respect from my family because l am able to put food on the table,” she said. 

“I mostly collect copper metals than cans, since they weigh better. Filling two or three buckets makes my day,” she added. 

At first, she could not tell the difference between metals, but the other women taught her. 

Maria Shikoyeni from Uupindi started as scrap collector, picking through the dumpsite. 

Currently she buys a load of scrap metals from trucks brought to the dump by firms she knows, and she employs nine women to sort through it for her. 

“People made fun of me when l started off as a scrap picker. They said I should look for something better to do, but now I am a business owner employing other people,” says the single mother of five. 

Shikoyeni pays her employees N$50 to N$100 a day and sells the scrap to big yards in Oneshila and Ondangwa. 

“Sometimes the dump runs dry and we wait for trucks to come with material. If more metal companies come and dump here, it can make our lives easier,” she said. 

Shikoyeni said “through this I am able to buy stationeries for my children, I am not begging from anyone, although government schools failed us. 

Oshana education director Hileni Amukana confirmed to New Era that funds have been made available for stationery to all schools in Oshana. 

Oshana region received N$4 million for school stationery last year. 

“I am advising schools to at least meet the parents halfway with the money left as they are still waiting for the budget of 2023/2024,” she said. 

She also urged parents who are able to buy their children stationery to do so. 


2023-01-11  Victoria Kaapanda

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