• September 22nd, 2020

Street youth, a resource for development

The phenomenon of streetism in Namibia is a scourge that has reached alarming proportions. 
The problem itself has been ramified in various manners by the continuous decline in the economy, thus rendering social services and infrastructure obsolete. Due to poor living conditions and inaccessibility to means of livelihood, many young people have been pushed into the streets.
While the government and NGOs made efforts to curb the menace of streetism, these efforts alone without adequate support from stakeholders cannot make great impacts in this negative trend of living. 
While in developed nations, streetism by young people has been more of social and psychological causal factors, poverty to a large extend is what drives many kids to the streets. The tendency within our society is to look at these young people negatively, as those whose manners, outlook, language and general mode of life differ from the mainstream culture. 
They are considered troublemakers, crooks, drug addicts and good-for-nothing persons, whose contributions to society cannot be relied upon. The contrary is true. If the youth potential is tapped in the right direction and diverted for development purposes, they are genuinely a resource for development. 
Street youth are vulnerable to several health risks and hazards, they are exposed to hunger and diseases, they have limited educational opportunities, and they are sometimes illiterate. The street is their workplace and their eating place. It is there that they get involved in illicit drinking and drug abuse, and they are exposed to prostitution, physical abuse and violence. In summary, the street is their world.
Although street youth in Namibia have parents to whom they return after day sojourns, the state of poverty and vulnerability cannot be overlooked. The quest for survival sometimes forces some parents to send their children out as street beggars. Others, who are not begging, take to menial jobs or sometimes pick-pocketing.
I believe these survival skills and qualities of perseverance that enable them to cope in difficult situations should be seen as potentials that need to be tapped for development. 
This must provide a base for all concerned to develop learning opportunities and services that build on their qualities and strength. 
Unemployment is one of the vices that make these young people take to the streets. The idle hand is said to be the devil’s work tool; it is very tempting for energetic and productive young persons to behave negatively out of idleness. 
Our first area of concern as a country must, therefore, be the economy itself from which we find means and resources to tackle the desired support services that will create avenues for more and better jobs for young persons who are the future of our nation. 
I believe that, despite being on the streets, these young people have contributions to make to the prosperity and development of our nation. 
According to studies conducted in Windhoek in 2015, on the demographic profile of street children, the majority (84%) of street children are boys between the ages of 11 and 18. The study further revealed that these kids grow up with their single mothers and grandparents, with the primary source of income of begging and stealing, which translates to 58%, followed by prostitution and selling of illicit drugs. 
Although awareness programmes are sometimes in the form of workshops or festivals, the seriousness and meaningful impact should not be lost in the euphoria of workshops/festivities; rather, it should provide us all with “food for thought” as to what should be done as a follow-up to the plight of these target groups with whom we all come in contact every day. 
Recently, following the announcement of a state of emergency by President Hage Geingob, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, he further announced that all street children will be accommodated at identified facilities across the country, with Khomas and Erongo being the hotspots. 
Therefore, political leaders, policymakers and the rest of us, with better livelihoods, have the moral obligation, according to each one’s responsibility to make personal decisions, on the inter-dependence of their plight and their poverty about our welfare and serene existence. 
True development of our nation cannot simply consist of accumulation of wealth without consideration for the social, cultural, psychological and spiritual dimensions of those who are less fortunate in our society. 
Our task remains to make concerted efforts and seek an integrated approach of follow-up actions of workshops/festivals. 
A good number of surveys and studies on shelves should now be followed up with actions if these young people are to remain truly a resource for development. 

Staff Reporter
2020-04-06 11:07:03 | 5 months ago

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