Namibia: Omaheke Kids Turn to Crime
New Era (Windhoek)
5 July 2007
Posted to the web 5 July 2007
There is an upsurge in serious crime among street children in Omaheke region, with children as young as 10 years counting among the suspects accused of murder, rape, stock theft and the abuse of dagga.
Revealing these findings to New Era on Tuesday, Rahimisa Ndjarakana, a social worker at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in Gobabis, said the trend now in the region was that minors end up raping other minors.
"There are in fact much fewer cases of adults raping children, as compared to children raping children. Early this year, there was also a case where three boys all aged 10 years raped a girl who was even younger than them," said Ndjarakana.
When asked about the contributing factors to such rapes among children, Ndjarakana said in most informal settlements in the town, the children slept with their parents in one room.
This poses a serious problem as many of these children then go and experiment with friends outside.
On a monthly basis, the social worker who singly caters for street children in the whole region deals with about 10 crime cases. Sometimes this number goes up, as many of the children are involved in multiple cases.
"Some of them steal a goat and slaughter it, get arrested and counselled, but then soon after they get rehabilitated, they get involved in rape or murder," said Ndjarakana.
Although there have never been any cases of children being sentenced for a crime, what normally happens is that after the culprit is arrested for a serious crime, he or she goes through a court trial and is taken into police custody upon which a social worker is called in for screening.
"Screening is when a social worker investigates the background of the child in order to determine the reasons why the child committed the crime in the first place.
"Most of the street kids are in conflict with the law, more especially the boys," she said.
Poverty, alcoholic parents and unemployment are the most contributing factors that lead children to commit serious crime.
From the cases she receives on a daily basis, it is evident that children from the Damara-speaking community are the most frequently involved in crime, while San children are the least involved.
In view of this, Ndjarakana is of the opinion that a more concerted multi-sectoral approach is needed to counsel such children in society.
"What we need is a holistic approach, we need to talk to the parents who drink alcohol at home, they need some counselling and rehabilitation too," she said.
Since it is a commonly known fact that children learn about life from adults, it is imperative that parents remain role models at all times.
On its part the community has stepped in to help change the habits of children through year-long projects called "Save the Children", "Light of the Children" and at the "Freedom Square" kindergarten.
In the meantime, the ministry’s social welfare department in Gobabis plans to offer screening and counselling to child offenders every Wednesday.