Underprivileged and selling boiled eggs- the forgotten children of Katutura
WINDHOEK - For many millennials, life is plain sailing. From receiving toys throughout childhood and having birthday parties thrown in their honour to being picked up from school in flashy vehicles, this group has often been overindulged by their well-to-do families.
Children are born in different families with different social statuses, and such levels mostly determine how some of them grow up and the challenges they will face in life.
The sons and daughters of rich and middle class parents have enough food, clothes and a better education while those born or raised on the lower end of the social spectrum have none.
Less privileged children face life on their own, they either choose to stay home and face hunger and poverty or drop out of school to go and work for the rich at a young age.
The streets of Katutura are littered with young boys selling mealies, eggs, sweets and sausages to make a living for themselves.
At their young age, these boys should ideally be in school - just like their peers – as they hone their lives for a brighter future.
New Era took to the streets to hear their stories and establish their ambitions.
What is disturbing in their life stories is that the items they sell, often to abusive adults on the unforgiving streets of Katutura who sometimes refuse to pay in full for items they took, do not belong to them.
The cash they make belongs to an adult, their boss, for whom they work.
In what could be a straight issue of child trafficking, which is punishable by law in Namibia, the so-called bosses bring these children to Windhoek to work for them.
Some of the children, New Era established, are of Angolan origin and were transported from the border town of Oshikango, where promises of a better life and a ‘job’ are dangled in their faces by adult law violators.
Child labour is not allowed in Namibia, as in the rest of the world. Namibia’s Labour Act, 2007 (Act 11 of 2007) prohibits the employment of a child under the age of 14 years. Violation of this provision is punishable by a fine of up to N$50 000 or a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, if not both.
The Monte Christo bus stop in Katutura is a hive of activity for these children, who court transport seekers who normally crowd the area.
On arrival, David Mikasiu, 15, was sitting at the entrance of the minibus yard at Monte Christo, targeting passengers boarding to the north of Namibia. He was parading his sausages and a bucket of muffins to those who cared to spare him a moment.
Chronicling his journey, the boy said a man came to his parents’ house in Oyenda village near the Angola and Namibia border in Ohangwena Region and asked consent to bring him to Windhoek and work for him.
He dropped out of Grade 5 to come sell sausages and get paid N$300 a month.
Parents, who themselves are mostly poor, often grant consent for their sons to be whisked away for supposed jobs in the capital.
With lips as dry as the pans of Etosha during dry season, Mikasiu said: “I want to go back to school and become a soldier after completion.
“I can go home and start school anytime I feel like it, my boss will not stop me.”
He walks approximately 10 kilometres everyday around Katutura selling products, before returning to a shack in Ombili informal settlement.
Just a distance away from where Mikasiu was seated was Mwashivange Kaongelwa, who is now 18-years but came to Windhoek three years ago in search of a better life.
Carrying a box of boiled eggs and spice, he said he dropped out of Grade 4 at Okapangu village in Evale (Angola), where he left his parents and does not intend to return to school.
“I just want to sell things and make money. I love the mealies compared to eggs because there is good profit, unfortunately, the mealies season is over.”
He works on his own by buying mealies from suppliers who buy in the Maize Triangle of Otavi, Grootfontein and Tsumeb.
A 50kg bag of green mealies costs him N$250, after which he boils them and sells them cooked.
At Ombwa Yalyata Otina informal settlement behind Okahandja Park, Kaongelwa has to fork out N$500 to rent a shack for accommodation every month.
At the entrance of Woermann Brock Supermarket at Monte Christo, Domingoes Komutima, 14, and his homie ‘Sheefeni’, 15, were playing while selling their eggs.
Although looking much younger, the boys were convinced of their ages.
They were also taken from their parents in Cuvelai, an Angolan town in Cunene Province, four months ago by an ‘employer’ who brought them to Mkwanambwa informal settlement where they each get stocks of eggs and corn to sell every morning.
They have to surrender the money every evening and wait for their payment of between N$300 and N$600 a month.
“I was going to school but I left because it was too far. I used to walk four hours to school,” Komutima said.
A confident Komutima also interrupted the conversation and said: “School is better because when you go to school you make a lot of money to buy a bicycle. I just want a bicycle,” he said with a beaming smile.
He revealed that at Mkwanambwa, ‘a lot’ of boys his age are employed by one boss who stays in a commune, from where they wake up to go work every morning.
Sheefeni, was cautious during the conversation, refusing to state his surname, apparently for cultural reasons. He has an attitude of a village boy raised at a cattle post.
As a norm, cattle herders in that part of the country attach a lot of cultural values to their lives so much that telling a stranger their name is a no-go area.
“I am not going back to school,” he said before grabbing his box of eggs and heading to Okahandja Park in search of customers.
Perhaps what worries onlookers to this situation is how authorities seem to ignore the blatant violations of these boys’ rights – with human trafficking and child labour violations possibly being committed willy-nilly.
Should the ‘employers’ be charged and these boys returned home back into the care of their parents? one may inquisitively ask.
Executive Director in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Wilhencia Uiras, acknowledged that child labour is illegal.
“We do not support that because it is illegal. This is a very serious story. Whether the parents gave consent for the children to work or not, it is not allowed by law.”
A response from a social worker in the same ministry, as coordinated by Uiras, indicates that the ministry, together with the ministries of labour, and safety and security, will look into establishing a team consisting of social workers, labour inspectors and police officers to investigate this situation.
“These children will be treated as a child in need of protective services, and the procedures for dealing with such a child will be followed. Action steps will include conducting social investigations to ascertain the circumstances under which these children were brought to Windhoek and to visit the house where they live in Windhoek. The employers or persons who used these children to sell their products will also be interviewed. Depending on the information gathered further interventions will be decided,” reads a reply from the ministry.
“The Child Care and Protection Act (Act no. 3 of 2015) states that a person who commits an offence of child labour and exploitation is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding N$50 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
New Era Reporter
2019-03-12 09:56:35 13 days ago