Albertina Nakale WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare has revealed that Namibia does not have a computerised database of street children, although the children are recorded by social workers on a daily basis and profiled to accord them the necessary services. Many destitute people are often seen holding all their belongings in filthy carry bags or in a shopping trolley and living in cardboard boxes – the only home they know. Many, including small children as young as 10 years old, are also seen scattered around Windhoek begging for spare change or food, But efforts are being made to assist the homeless, whose numbers are not known, with the National Council deciding to bring them on board and hear their experiences of homelessness firsthand. National Council Chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams during the launch recently said that as the voice of the public and as a national platform, parliament and the whole nation will be afforded a rare opportunity to hear the key priorities, concerns and stories about what it is like to be homeless. Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka said a total of 72 street children were recorded at the After-School Centre in Windhoek during the 2017/18 financial year. The After-School Centre is a government facility and initiative towards strengthening the well-being of Namibian children. The centre focuses on disadvantaged children such as street children and children from economically challenged families and communities. Of the 72, she noted, nine are girls and 63 are boys ranging from the age of one to 22 years. Sioka said the ministry recorded 20 youths – all men – ranging from the age of 19 to 22 years. “Social workers keep records of the numbers of children found on the streets and they are recorded as children in need of care in terms of the Children’s Act, Act No. 33 of 1960, and they provide various services based on the circumstances of the children they encounter,” she said. Besides those in Windhoek, the ministry also found homeless children in other parts of Namibia during the same period. These include 21 found in Erongo, 12 in Otjozondjupa, 17 in Oshikoto, 46 in Ohangwena, while in Oshana the ministry found 13 street children. In Kavango East, about 20 street children were found, in Omaheke there were also 20, Karas recorded 38, Kunene had 10, Hardap recorded 20 and 15 homeless children were found in Zambezi. Sioka said the centre was born out of the realisation of the plight of the street children and aims to minimise the number of children living and working on the street. “The centre also provides temporary accommodation for children during the process of reintegrating them back into the community, families and educational institutions. While they are at the interim night shelter they attend counselling sessions and are rehabilitated to make sure their psychological needs are taken care of,” Sioka noted. The centre has the capacity to cater for 500 children frequenting it at any given time. She said 200 children are currently attending afternoon classes, sports and psychological support services. However, she revealed the centre is challenged because these children keep going back to the streets due to lack of resources to support them within their home system. Moreover, she said older children keep luring younger ones back to Windhoek and children are highly addicted to alcohol, petrol and drugs.
New Era Reporter
2018-07-23 09:12:46 9 months ago