Newspaper report leads to release of street children

 Newspaper report leads to release of street children
KAKUNAWE SHINANA

FOURTEEN of 16 street children picked up by the City Police in Windhoek last week have been released into the custody of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare’s After-school Care Centre.

The other two were released into the care of their parents, who were traced at Rehoboth and Okahandja.

Their release follows a report and front-page photograph in The Namibian on Friday highlighting the plight of the children.

The children were detained at the Windhoek Central Police Station after being rounded up by the City Police – allegedly for squatting.

At a press conference in Windhoek yesterday, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda said her Ministry had been shocked to learn through the media about the arrest of children, who were in dire need of protection and other basic needs.

However, she added, the children had not been arrested for criminal offences.

The City Police had simply been conducting a "routine clean-up campaign".

Mungunda said the children would be sent to boarding schools.

She called on the public to contact the Ministry whenever they saw street children so that their parents could be traced and reminded of their parental responsibilities.

This would also give the Ministry a chance to investigate the home circumstances of these children, she said.

The Minister pointed out that it was a criminal offence for parents to neglect, ill treat or abandon their children in terms of the Children’s Act of 1960.

She said, however, that many children ran away from their homes because of poverty, while others were abandoned because their parents or guardians were unfit to give them the proper care.

"The Namibian Government has strong strategic mechanisms and resources in place to put the children first.

No Namibian child should be without education, shelter, care and love," said Mungunda.

According to Mungunda, it was a violation of the children’s rights to publish their photographs.

"It is with dismay that the faces of these children are so prominent in a newspaper article and can be identified easily.

The Namibian as a well-known paper should have known that it is against the legal frameworks of article 154 and 153 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and section 8 (2) of the Children’s Act to publish information revealing the identity of children," said Mungunda.

The Swapo Party Youth League’s acting Secretary for Information, Clinton Swartbooi, said The Namibian had committed an offence and could get a fine of N$10 000.

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