OSIRE - Over 700 young people at Osire refugee settlement attended a #BeFreeOsire discussion on Friday with First Lady of Namibia (FLON) Monica Geingos.
The program focused on tackling hot button issues faced by Osire youth.
The #BeFree campaign is a joint initiative of Geingos, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS, and the United Nations Population Fund aimed at giving young people a platform to speak freely on youth-related issues. An outreach hub of social services was also held at Osire on Thursday that offered health screenings and informational workshops.
As youth comprise over 55 percent of Osire refugees and asylum seekers, the two-day event targeted solutions to increasing concerns of early marriage, teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, HIV/AIDS, abortion, alcohol and drug abuse, and child-headed households at the settlement.
Friday’s youth dialogue included presentations from Osire entertainment groups, informational plays, and personal testimonies from former refugees. The programme concluded with a panel discussion of local and government representatives based in Osire and an interactive question and answer session between Osire youth, FLON, and executive directors from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
Among student concerns were the lack of funding available for tertiary education and entrepreneurship, leaving adolescents in limbo after Grade 12. Concerns were also raised on inadequate support for differently abled youth and pre-primary education as well as Osire residents limited access to outside services due to their status.
Geingos pledged to link the youth with the support they needed in acquiring bursaries and finances for business development. While Executive Director of Education Sanet Steenkamp expressed her ministry’s commitment to providing Osire with teachers to address the needs of differently abled youth and early childhood education.
In response to a question about needed Identity Documents (IDs), Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Executive Director Etienne Maritz assured attendees that while the ministry was working toward ensuring all residents have IDs, the documents would not replace their exit permits which are needed for statistical and monitoring purposes. The executive directors also promised a follow-up week of service delivery.
Geingos also remarked on the talent she observed on what was her first visit to Osire.
“There’s a lot of innovation and entrepreneurship that I see in Osire that I really admire,” she said. “All I can say is that what I saw in Osire, I don’t even see in other parts of the country sometimes where there is assistance.”
Established in 1992, Osire refugee settlement is 110 kilometres southeast of Otjiwarongo and home to over 4,500 refugees from around the continent. The settlement has one secondary school and one primary school, along with one health clinic staffed with four nurses but no doctor. Ricardo Dihore, an enrolled nurse at Osire clinic, said the biggest challenges his facility faced were short staff, HIV positive residents defaulting on their medical treatment, and illegal abortions.
Nineteen-year-old Mbomaguy Khonzola first arrived at Osire three years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Khonzola, a student at Osire Secondary School, lives in a child-headed household supervised by his older sister. During the event, he had the opportunity to ask FLON about support for child-headed families. Khonzola believes #BeFreeOsire made an impact on Osire youth who he says often drop out of school due to a lack of motivation.
“We mostly live here without hope. It doesn’t feel like there’s anyone who cares about us. But we also know that we have home affairs and some organization. But having the First Lady here makes you feel important,” Khonzola said.
This article was submitted by Kaylan Shipanga, an Information Officer in the Ministry of Information Otjozondjupa regional office.