Eliud Mwaamenange and Petrus Shatiwa
“Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved”, this was said by Nicholas A. Ferroni. I initially thought this was just an ordinary fictional phrase until when I witnessed it. To most parents is a dream come true when sending their children to universities and colleges. Even though it is an achievement for their children to make it to the universities, most parents are financially disadvantaged.
Others fear for their children’s wellbeing if they let them stay alone when they send them to university. As a result of these, some parents particularly those residing in places far from universities are forced to send their children to universities to stay with their extended family members or their (parents) friends.
Due to the high rate of multidimensional poverty in Namibia, most parents cannot afford to be spending money on rent, food, transport fee and university tuition fees well, thus they make provision for their children to stay with relatives. In this way, parents would be able to save up finances for other needs as they are not paying rent or hostel fees.
However, albeit the above stated issues (financial crisis and children’s wellbeing) are well understood, it is regrettable that the students are suffering at the hands of the people (relatives and friends) that they are entrusted with. Envy, jealousy and carelessness have led to this saddening experience.
In the houses of their parents’ friends or relatives, students are being treated like domestic workers, some students are starving in those houses, limited to certain house compartments and other traumatizing doings.
Students end up suffering from stress, depression and living with fear in silence because they fear that they might get kicked out of the house if they speak out or their parents will not believe them, which might force them to drop their studies and worry their parents.
Study time limited
Academic work imposes pressure with infinite assignments to complete, tests to study for, and other numerous projects that need to be done. As a result of these, many students would sleep late to do their research and study.
However, some people, particularly those who live in ghettos or in single rooms would not entertain lights to be on as late as after 22h00 and late. “You cannot sleep with lights on, you are finishing the electricity units with your lights on this late”, these are some of the statements that students may hear on a daily basis from those they live with. These, therefore, force students to only be doing their school work at the campus or in that confined time they are given.
Limited access to kitchen
Nutrition is supposed to be a fundamental human right. Students who go live with their relatives for school usually receive special treatment in the first two-three weeks, with unrestricted access to the kitchen. “There is bread in the fridge” would be some of the sweet and pleasing statements they hear in their first weeks. However, after those two weeks, those sweet statements will swiftly change to “Who ate up Junior’s bread? These days we are eating too much” and so forth. Even though there is no direct finger pointing, one can already sense the message behind all that. In fact, in some houses, people only eat breakfast and dinner, which won’t be easy for a person who is not used to it. This does not imply that students do not buy food or their parents do not send anything, but it is simply a result of cruelty. At this point, the child’s psychological, emotional, and even physical wellbeing is already being put to threat.
Girls treated like domestic workers
Female students are now becoming domestic workers and have to take care of kids in the house while carrying the burden of their academic tasks on their shoulders at the same time. They have to make sure that the house is clean and the kitchen work is done particularly those who stay with people who go to work, all alone. We are not implying that students must not work at home, NO, but their domestic work and house chores must be carried out by all, fairly. Many people do not understand that there is no difference between going to work and being a student who foots to campus every day. They hold the opinion that dealing with books is easy because some never experience a situation of having about eight assignments that are due in one week, while you still have to attend lectures.
Becomes blame victim
A lot of people would agree with me that it is difficult for one to mess up things in the house where you are only two or three. However, new housemates (students) unfortunately become blame victims of whatever wrong thing is done in the house. Others may even take advantage of the situation by messing up things intentionally. Some students claim that they are falsely blamed for instilling bad manners in their guardians’ children which is not always the case. It is sad seeing all these.
The fact is that they are a lot, but these are some of the things that students staying with their parents’ friends and extended family members are facing almost every day. Now the debate should be; what is the best thing parents who can’t afford to pay rent or who do not trust their children to go rent alone do to ensure that their children are not in the mess while at the same time not enslaved?
* Eliud Mwaamenange and Petrus Shatiwa are third year student teachers at the International University of Management-Coastal campus pursuing their honours degrees in Secondary Education (BHESE). Petrus Shatiwa is also an SRC of Gender and Social Welfare. They wrote this article in their own personal capacities.