Namibia: Row Over Imprisoned Children

Namibia: Row Over Imprisoned Children
27 February 2008
Posted to the web 27 February 2008

Wezi Tjaronda
Windhoek

The arrest of street children in the capital has become a common occurrence since the past two years even though they are supposed to be taken to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare’s facility, the After School Centre.

Last week, 16 street children found to be "squatting on public property" were arrested and taken to the Windhoek Central Police Station before being taken to a juvenile facility at Wanaheda police station. Fourteen of the 16 street children have since been placed at the After School Centre, while the other two were put in the custody of their parents who come from Okahandja and Rehoboth.

A local daily, The Namibian last Friday published a picture of children between eight and 18 years, whom it said were locked up at the Windhoek central police station. Most of the children are boys. Although there is a provision that children picked up from the streets should be taken to the centre, the 16 children were detained, which according to the Big Step, the social arm of the Big Issue, has become a common occurrence. A survey conducted in 2004 indicated that Windhoek had 300 street children. The ministry called a press conference on Monday to express disappointment on how the children were treated. Among its concerns were the publishing of the picture, which exposed some of the children’s identities. Minister Marlene Mungunda said, "The nation was shocked to see that in an independent Namibia, children were imprisoned. These kids are in dire need of protection, shelter and basic needs as they were on the streets, begging and committing crime were arrested and put in prison (sic)."

She said the concerned children had not committed any crimes and were not charged. But City Police spokesperson Marx Hipandwa said street children were a problem in that they robbed tourists, caused malicious damage to property, shop lifted and broke into people’s houses. He said in January and February alone, the kids committed seven crimes. Big Step’s Mathew Rukoro said most kids were not criminals but some robbed people of their belongings in a bid to survive.

He said he did not support the arrest of children especially when they were not in the wrong. Hipandwa said although the norm is that the children are taken to the After School Centre, the street children found loitering would be arrested and screened by social workers and would be referred to the juvenile justice programme. There is also an agreement that the police will hold the parents found to be neglecting their children. "After the first warning, we are going to hold them for negligence," he said, adding that the police also hold meetings with concerned parents. Mungunda said some of the children that were sick were given medical treatment.

The Swapo Party Youth League executive members made the ministry aware of the problem. Mungunda said on concerns of the identity of the children, "it is not acceptable that the children’s faces could be seen. We will not allow this to happen in an independent Namibia," she said, adding: "The newspaper should have known that it is against the legal framework of Namibia." Swapo Party Youth League acting Secretary for Information, Publicity and Mobilisation Clinton Swartbooi said the paper could be fined up to N$10 000 for putting the government in an embarrassing situation deliberately.

The After School Centre, which has the capacity to cater for 500 children usually between the ages of six and 14, offers a variety of activities including home work assistance, arts and crafts, sport, cultural activities, library facilities, music and drama, home economics and HIV/AIDS awareness.

The centre has a component in which it assists parents of street children to earn an income through gardening, sewing, soap making, carpentry and baking.

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.

Namibia: Kids Saved From Life On the Street

Namibia: Kids Saved From Life On the Street
New Era (Windhoek)

8 October 2007
Posted to the web 8 October 2007

Mbatjiua Ngavirue
Windhoek

The Joy Centre in Otjiwarongo is testament to the difference a single person can make in the lives of so many, by turning former street children into useful productive members of society.

In a space of three years, Muriel Fisch, almost single-handedly transformed the lives of dozens of street children in Otjiwarongo.

She provided them with the safe environment, love and guidance they needed to bring their shattered lives back on track.

The majority of street children were heavily steeped in a dagga and mandrax drug culture, as well as glue and petrol sniffing.

The first step to giving them a new chance in life, meant getting them to kick the drug habit.

Muriel Fisch originates from the Rehoboth district, but came to Otjiwarongo in 2004 after Esperanza Project asked her to come and become their co-ordinator.

She was a town councillor at Rehoboth, who did volunteer work and participated in community-based organisations.

Fisch helped at the Esperanza Project for two months before the project closed down unexpectedly due to unforeseen circumstances.

Two curious twists of fate came about that prevented her from returning to Rehoboth as she otherwise might have.

The premises of the old, but now abandoned, 435 Dancing Club happened to come on the market at a reasonably affordable price.

As fortune would have it, an anonymous American benefactor also stepped to the fore offering to donate the money necessary to purchase the property.

The payment of an initial deposit of N$85000 then led to the birth of the Joy Centre.

The birth pangs of the home were, however, painful and the success of the project hung in the balance for most of its early existence.

Fisch originally planned to operate the home as a day-care centre, where children arrived at 08h00 and left at 17h00 in the afternoon.

This arrangement, however, failed to break the cycle of negative and destructive behaviour they had caught their lives up in.

They would start abusing drugs again when they left the centre in the afternoons – and in some cases even criminal activity – returning in a morose and dulled state the next morning.

Fisch became despondent, feeling she was making no progress with the children, and the first step needed was to get the children sober.

Refusing to give up however, she decided to start overnighting at the centre with the children – at great risk to her own personal safety – in order to keep them away from harmful influences.

Many of the boys were of an age where they posed a potential physical threat, apart from the fact that they carried weapons such as knives and screwdrivers.

She also started a programme of one-to-one counselling with individual street children.

"The secret was to show them love, but it still took around eight months to turn their lives around."

It was a proud day for Fisch when she could take her Joy Centre group into the local branch of Pep Stores, without all the security guards flying into a panic assuming the children had come to shoplift.

She divides the type of children cared for by the centre into three types:

– Vulnerable children – have parents but are still on the streets;

– Problem children – have parents but there is no understanding between child and parent. These children are often aggressive and involved in theft; and

– Lastly, there are genuine orphans, including three at the centre from as far away as Mariental.

The centre has recorded some remarkable successes in the short three years of its existence.

The centre has reintegrated most of the former street children back into the mainstream school system, where some have performed exceptionally.

Romanus, the former leader of a street gang, is now at one of the local high schools where he is one of the top-performing learners.

Other boys enrolled at the Community Skills Development Centre (Cosdec) where they have acquired skills in carpentry, building and metalwork.

The experience at Cosdec made it possible for them to carry out most of the necessary renovation work at Joy Centre themselves.

Finding funds for day-to-day running costs of the centre has not proved easy. The well-known Theo Spar at Otjiwarongo donates food to the centre on a daily basis.

Individual local good Samaritans pay the centre’s water and electricity bills monthly.

Fisch regrets that because of limited space, the centre cannot take as many girls as she would like, although there is a crying need for getting girls off the street.

Her main ambition now is to expand the centre by purchasing a badly needed property next door.

Human nature being what it is, there are always those willing to prey on the misery of others, with the asking price for the property suddenly sky-rocketing making it unaffordable for Joy Centre.

Regional Councillor for Otjiwarongo Constituency, Ferdinand Kavetuna, could not praise Fisch enough for her work in Otjiwarongo.

"Since she started hardly any street kids can be found in Otjiwarongo. She has done a marvellous job.

"When I was at the municipality we tried various solutions, without any success. We don’t know what she did in order to succeed," Kavetuna said.

Namibia: Success Story of Liza’s Journey of Caring

Namibia: Success Story of Liza’s Journey of Caring
New Era (Windhoek)

26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007

Surihe Gaomas
Windhoek

While many other 30-year-olds are destined for a blissful life with a husband and children, for Elizabeth Hilger it was not a life set out for herself, despite her ability to have become a European suburbia parent and devoted wife.

In fact, the only devotion she had was to remain steadfast in looking after those less privileged than herself. To be precise, there are 163 orphaned children at Mavanze Village located 12 km west of Rundu in the Kavango Region.

That is how the dedicated founder of the Theresia Orphans and Vulnerable Children Foundation in Kavango started a journey of caring.

With an ever-present smile, Liza, as she is affectionately known, loves cracking jokes, and strives to live life to the fullest.

Clasping her fingers together and creasing her smooth facial skin into a smile Hilger, from the Kavango Region, portrays a subtle child-like innocence.

"Just call me Liza," said the young woman with a shiny sparkle in her eyes and an aura of determination.

"Success is a journey, and it’s a process not a destination. That is what keeps me going all the time," said Hilger.

Born out of a poor family of four siblings, Hilger’s calling has always been to be on the lookout for the hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children.

Tragically, the passion for caring all started at the death of her mother Theresia Rosina Vendura on July 20, 2005.

"When my mom passed away two years ago, I noticed some street children crowding at the funeral. They would in fact move from one funeral to the next, looking for food. You look at each child closely, the ragged clothes and the dirtiness of the skin," said Hilger.

"You see in their eyes that something is wrong – they are sad, and it really touches me a lot," she said.

Soon after the burial, Hilger decided to investigate into the background of these street children to know more about them.

It appears that the issue of orphans and street children in the Kavango Region is worsening, more so with the multitude of these unfortunate children losing their parents to AIDS-related complications.

The issue of dumped children is also another concern.

This led this philanthropic woman to open up a place of shelter for these children, affectionately naming it ‘Theresia Orphans and Vulnerable Children Foundation’ in December 2005, in memory of her mother.

"The demand for taking care of these children is huge in the Kavango. With few donations from good Samaritans, I first registered 98 orphans and vulnerable children in 2005, then this number grew to 143 the following year, and now we have 163 children. Although the home is full, I can’t send them away. When they see me they sing ‘Here comes Liza, Here comes Liza’ and that has touched me deeply," said Hilger wiping away a tear.

This is how her mother used to sing for her whenever she came to visit her in the home village.

"Even though both my parents have died, I keep them close to me all the time by carrying their identification cards. Look, here’s one of Theresia," she said. Look, here it is," she says taking out an old South West African card – that bears her mother’s face.

For her late dad, Joao dos Santos, she pulled out a ruffled piece of paper in the form of a driver’s licence. On it is written ‘1985/07/11 Rundu – Payment R2.00.’

"I pray to God and think about my mom. Sometimes she smiles at me in my dream, and then I get this hope that I’ll be getting more donors to help me. And then it happens," she says.

Just recently Namibia Diamond Company (NAMDEB) donated N$200 000 for building a soup kitchen at Mavanze Village. The completed building was officially opened on July 20 this year.

Being the only girl among four boys, Hilger was the darling of the family, and this is the same way she treats each and every child that comes to stay in the home.

"All children should be treated in a special way – with love, affection and with a sense of hope for the future. They must be fed, educated and loved at all times," she added.

But who is Hilger, apart from this children’s home? Well, unlike many young women, she chose not to follow her husband, Patrick Hilger, to live a luxury life in Luxembourg, but decided to tackle head-on the issue of dumped children and orphans.

"Rundu viva! Luxembourg – no, no!" she said, recalling her life story.

"I got married to Patrick in January 2003 and we have a beautiful two-year-old daughter, Joyce. There was no honeymoon because I was working. I did not want to leave my home-grown dream and go to Europe. We spoke about it for a long time, and he finally understood me. My love for Patrick is not based on where we stay, and I managed to win his heart over and he decided to stay with me here in Kavango," she said.

At the time her friends thought she was crazy. "They would say ‘how can you get married to a Shirumbu (a white man) and not want to go to Europe’? But I knew in my heart we were doing the right thing. I listened to my inner voice that told me my dream would one day bear fruit."

Having completed Grade 12 at Linus Shashipapo Secondary School in Rundu and having worked as a secretary at the Rundu Town Council in 1999 to support her unemployed parents, Hilger is happy to be a home mother to 163 children today.

"When you encourage children, you water the very seed in them that will help them grow into who they want to be. To live in this world without parents is not something easy, especially when you are still young. That’s why my heart goes out to these young children we care for at the project in the village."

Namibia: Omaheke Kids Turn to Crime

Namibia: Omaheke Kids Turn to Crime
New Era (Windhoek)

5 July 2007
Posted to the web 5 July 2007

Surihe Gaomas
Gobabis

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.

Namibia: Suffer Little Children

Namibia: Suffer Little Children
New Era (Windhoek)

29 June 2007
Posted to the web 29 June 2007

Catherine Sasman
Windhoek

The bowels of the concrete-walled water drainage pipes running beneath the busy Mandume Ndemufayo Road in the southern industrial area of Windhoek light up every night from a low fire fuelled by plastic bags and shards of wooden planks.

A motley group of boys huddle around the flames for warmth against the bitingly cold night temperatures.

These pipes provide shelter to about 14 or 16 boys between the ages of 11 and 19. They call it the Invisible Pipes.

Winter temperatures have fallen to between minus one degree Celsius to three degrees Celsius over the last week in the central city area, confirmed Rian van Zyl from the weather office. And another cold spell is likely to hit again next week.

The icy conditions are taking their toll on the homeless and destitute. Wintertime to these boys is synonymous with sore and stiff bodies, constant flu and wheezing chests.

"We do not have any blankets," says Ricardo Jones, a 14-year-old runaway from Mariental.

One or two of the boys claim to have blankets that they have either stolen or were given by sympathetic members of the public.

But the others wrap themselves in plastic bags, cardboard boxes, or pieces of cloth gathered from the Game shopping mall during the day. Their mattresses are more plastic bags and cardboard boxes.

"Wintertime is a very unpleasant time of the year for us," says Robert Benson (16). "It keeps away the sleep at night."

"I think I will freeze to death this winter," says Willem Frederik (19). His face is puffed up from drink and slowly-healing knife cuts criss-cross his face, and he has an open and bleeding wound on one arm "from a fight with gangsters".

As night falls, he puts on a thin, frayed shirt over his red sweater.

And, say the boys, the City Police make their lives more difficult in winter.

"They go after us especially now. In summer they do not bother us," said Carlos Benson.

City Police Assistant Superintendent, Marx Hipandwa, responded by saying that the children should not view this as victimization, but that they are being picked up "for their own good – irrespective of the season".

After traversing the streets at night, the boys return to the pipes around midnight.

They then light the fire, and cook whatever food they could gather during the day from small jam cans.

"We always sit together around the fire to chat and play cards," says Daniel Swartbooi (23). He is the assigned cook of the group.

They eat once a day – if at all.

Their staple diet consists mostly of porridge and dry bread that they get from their "sponsors".

Or they add their pennies together that they have collected from begging or stealing, and buy special treats like sugar to add to their nightly teas.

But if they cannot find food in the day, they rummage through garbage bins for whatever scraps of food they can find.

"We scratch through the bins the whole day," says Rudolph Afrikaner (16).

Volunteers from a local church bring them soup every Friday.

Other times they go to Klein Windhoek where they hunt birds.

"It is like eating chicken," laughs Benson.

When they are ready to sleep, they kill the fire because of the smoke.

Another group of four boys live behind the Game shopping mall, opposite a railway line that cuts through the thinly-spread bushes.

"This is Paradise," says Carlos Benson (23), the oldest of the group.

They call this place Paradise because it is close to a river from which they get sufficient water in the rainy season.

In winter, the cold creeps up to their hilltop cardboard shelter set up under a tree.

"We also do not have blankets. We only have plastic bags and boxes," says the older Benson.

They wake up at eight or ten in the morning to sit in the morning sun and thaw their freezing bodies.

If it was a particularly cold night, they sleep until noon to catch up on sleep.

The youngest of these boys is Ivan Jarsen (13), who hitch-hiked from Okahandja a year ago because his grandmother who raised him could not provide him with food or school fees. He does not know what has happened to his mother, and is afraid of his father.

"He drinks too much; he will kill me," he says.

But the two groups of boys seem to have developed a strong bond, and fend for each other – when not fighting each other.

"When I first came to Windhoek, I was afraid that people would hurt me or steal from me," says a serious-looking Ricardo Jonas.

"But I met up with my friends who knew the place."

Jonas, like so many of the street children, has left his home and family to escape poverty or severe abuse. When he was 10 years old, he took a train on his own to come to Windhoek to "zula" (to beg or find other means to survive).

"My father died and I stayed with my mother and four siblings. But we were always hungry and struggled for everything," he says.

According to a study done by the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare in 2002 – the last study done on street children – a sample of 243 children was reached.

Forty of these, says the ministry, were found in the Khomas region. Children as small as two to six-year-olds were found in temporary tent shelters in Gobabis during the study.

The study, however, did not distinguish between boys and girls, but what is known is that 78.8% of these children are boys, with the majority of them under the age of 15.

It is also known that these children live nomadic lifestyles, making it difficult to monitor them. But, noted the ministry, the phenomenon is growing, particularly in the urban areas.

According to Ausiku, the ministry is currently in the process of expanding its programmes that deal with street children in the affected regions.

"The initiative is not permanent, but temporary in nature, because the ministry tries to avoid encouraging a dependency syndrome that takes away the primary responsibility from the parents and the community, but rather tries to encourage parents and the community to take care of their children by changing and improving their living conditions in the best interest of the children," said Ausiku.

What lands these children on the streets, says the ministry, is the "triple threat" of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity at their homes.

"We find that most street children in Namibia are those from poor households who lack access to sufficient food, proper care and education," said Permanent Secretary with the ministry, Sirkka Ausiku.

Street children, according to UNESCO, are boys and girls whose homes become the streets or a source of livelihood, and are inadequately protected.

There are three categories that define these children: the "street child" is totally estranged from his/her family.

"Children on the street" describe those who spend the majority of the day on the streets before returning to their homes at night. "Children living on the street" with their families constitute an emergency.

Most of these children, added Ausiku, are more at risk of being exposed to violence and abuse, both inside and outside their homes.

"So, being a street child means going hungry, sleeping in insalubrious places, facing violence and sometimes death."

The 2006 State o
f the World’s Children report found that a third of Namibia’s children are "invisible" because their births have not been registered.

"Without a birth certificate, these children experience difficulties getting into schools and accessing other support services and government grants," noted Ausiku.

Another threat to these vulnerable children is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as a weakening capacity of social and economic services.

"These factors are cross-cutting affects and rob our children of their well-being and security."

The government has set up the After School Centre as a mediating measure to deal with these vulnerable children.

According to the ministry, the centre conducts weekly street visits to monitor the number of children on the streets.

When children are found, they are taken to the centre for a "talk", and get fed and cleaned up.

The centre provides for children between the ages of five and 18 years.

The centre reportedly assists social workers to reunite and reintegrate children with their families.

But, despite these attempts and the hardship, on the streets, many children do not want to go to the centre, and do not want to be found.

They do not like the rules of institutions. They want to be free.

"We would go and live in a house only if we can stay there on our own," said Afrikaner.

"If not, we will stay in our pipes."

South Africa: South African Singer Adopts Street Child

South Africa: South African Singer Adopts Street Child
New Era (Windhoek)

28 June 2007
Posted to the web 28 June 2007

Surihe Gaomas
Windhoek

"Can I take him with me? If you promise me you will stop drinking and abusing drugs, I promise I will take you as mine by paying for your school fees from now on, okay," UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka told a street child.

This generous gesture was made when the well-known South African singer and Yvonne Chaka Chaka this week adopted Namibian street child, 17-year-old Elrico /Narib.

Speaking at the commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Tuesday, Chaka Chaka was all too touched about the sad tales of street children caught up in the seemingly never-ending vicious cycle of drugs and alcohol.

Giving a motivational talk, Chaka Chaka felt passionate about the notion that young people must stay away from illicit substance abuse in order to become responsible leaders of tomorrow.

"Will all the young people stand up, please. Yes, I want to talk to you," said Chaka Chaka, stepping away from the stand. "Who of you abuses alcohol and drugs? Come on, don’t be shy now?" she asked.

It was only after a few seconds that /Narib then shyly put up his hand, and he was beckoned by Chaka Chaka to come up to the front.

This was indeed a touching moment for this street child from Okahandja Park in Katutura, as it marked the turn-around of his life away from drugs and alcohol.

As from next year, a much brighter chapter will open up in the life of /Narib. He was encouraged by Chaka Chaka to get rid of his old habit of substance abuse and get back into a classroom.

Tears were running down his face as he shyly accepted the "adoption" offer from the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. All he could say was a mere "yes, thank you," to the African princess of South African pop music.

/Narib’s life story is no different from the many others one hears about street children in the country. Dropping out of school at Grade 5 in 2005, the young boy got caught up in street life and became addicted to drugs like dagga and alcohol.

All this happened soon after his mother passed away in 2004 and his unemployed father was unable to cater for his daily needs.

"He smokes zol (dagga cigars) and drinks alcohol a lot. I know he wants to stop but just does not know how," were remarks from Maria Boois, an ex-sex-worker and the leader of a Christian-based group for reformed street people called King’s Daughters.

"Ever since his mother’s death, all he’s known is life on the street and he used to sleep in pipes or street corners in the location area of Okahandja Park. His father is also sick and unemployed, so I decided to take Elrico into our prayer group, the King’s Daughters," explained Boois further.

As an initiative, which started on May 2, 2006, the King’s Daughters help people of the street – prostitutes and street children alike – to do away with dangerous, old habits and to live a Christian-based lifestyle.

Ever since his "adoption" by the singer on Tuesday, the shy-spoken youth has been crying with joy and happiness. "This is like a miracle indeed. Four weeks ago we had Bible studies and we prayed for him, and now this has happened to him," said Boois.

As for now, Elrico’s case will be taken over by Rene Adams, Coordinator of Coalition for Responsible Drinking within the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and also in consultation with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.

Adams will therefore act as a mediator between the Elrico and the singer, as logistics are now underway.

Chaka Chaka was here at the invitation of UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. She left the country on Tuesday.

Namibia: Laws On Street Children Needed

Namibia: Laws On Street Children Needed
The Namibian (Windhoek)

December 5, 2006

Absalom Shigwedha
Windhoek

NAMIBIAN lawmakers were yesterday urged to come up with laws aimed at keeping orphans and other vulnerable children from ending up living on the street.

The call was made by National Council (NC) Deputy Chairperson Margareth Mensah-Williams in the House of Review yesterday.

Speaking during debate on the Report of the NC Standing Committee on Gender, Youth Participation and Information on the plight of street children, Mensah-Williams said the legislative arm of Government needed to come up with laws to help them.

"These children come from our society and we cannot turn our backs on them," she said.

Mensah-Williams said something also needed to be done about prostitution.

She said while prostitution was illegal in Namibia, a law should also be introduced to punish those who pay for sex.

She said both sides should get equal treatment before the law.

Namibia: Street Kids Art Event

Namibia: Street Kids Art Event

New Era (Windhoek)

October 13, 2006
Posted to the web October 13, 2006

Next Thursday the Namibia Craft Centre will be featuring street youths’ achievements in art through an exhibition sponsored by The Big Issue and First National Bank (FNB), it was announced in a press release.

"Many of these artists are homeless or come from homes where they are abused or unwelcome. To fight for these youths’ rights, The Big Issue incorporates them into The Big Step programme, which attempts to set individuals back on a path toward a successful life," said Jo Rogge.

In collaboration with The Big Issue, FNB sponsors a monthly art competition where Big Issue vendors can submit a work of art to be judged for a cash prize. The magazine then prints the winner’s artwork in the following issue.

"The exhibition will highlight the previous winners of the art competition, and more information on the artists’ backgrounds will be provided. In addition, FNB has sponsored the printing of twelve of the artworks as postcards. These cards will be revealed during the exhibition’s first night and will be available to the general public for sale around the Christmas season.

The Big Issue has invited Mr. Raymond Castillo, the Director of American Cultural Affairs, to open and speak at the exhibition.

"The American Embassy has generously donated money to The Big Issue’s street youth rehabilitation programme, which seeks to educate, care and provide support for those who have no one else to turn to," Rogge said.

The exhibition will be held in the Namibia Craft Centre on Thursday at 19h00.

 

Women Extend a Hand to Street Kids

Namibia: Women Extend a Hand to Street Kids

New Era (Windhoek)

July 4, 2006
Posted to the web July 5, 2006

Chrispin Inambao
Rundu

Appalled by the rate at which some parents are dumping their children onto the streets of Rundu as if they were "puppies", a group of four concerned young white women has resolved to come to the rescue of these unfortunate street children.

Léa Frugier, a trainee from France seconded to a developmental project Nam/335 by Lux-Development SA at Rundu, was so touched by what she saw that she joined forces with sisters Ilze and Madré Müller and Mardi Horn to tackle this ugly reality by the horns.

The streets of Rundu and most specifically fuel filling stations and other market places at the northeastern town are favourite begging spots for these highly desperate children.

Motorists filling up at service stations cannot miss this social malaise as meandering groups of sad-looking, barefooted children, some attired in rags, normally ask motorists if they could clean their windscreens for N$1 or N$0,50 to enable them to buy bread.

For several years Mardi Horn, a compassionate young local woman of Afrikaner origin has been caring for three of these black children and she also supports countless others.

The bespectacled Horn picked the near-surrogate children under her loving and tender care, whom she built a neat grass hut at Kehemu, from the streets where they were beggars after being neglected by relatives or cruelly deprived of parental care by death.

One of the children she is looking after is 14-year-old Janu Pedro a student who is doing remarkably well in his classes, passing with flying colours at a senior secondary school at the town.

The others are two young sisters Sirenga, 12, and her sibling 10-year-old Munonga.

At the time Janu Pedro’s plight was brought to Horn’s attention the minor used to remove rubbish from the yards of mean civil servants who in turn paid him a pittance.

Both his parents were apparently killed in a road accident and he was saved from virtual enslavement at a house in Tutungeni by Horn who took him into her care, paying for his school fees and buying him books, food and other daily basics.

The same woman spotted Sirenga in 2002 while she was feverish and begging for money outside a supermarket at Rundu. She also assisted this child who in turn introduced her to her younger sibling who at the time equally survived through begging on the streets.

"She (Sirenga) was a very tiny, little thing at the time I found her outside Cola Cola Supermarket, begging, while she appeared very sickly. Later on she brought the little sister and I realized the situation was exactly the same," said Horn.

This childless and compassionate woman who first came to Rundu when she was nine and is now 28 says, "I have been doing this out of my own pocket for the last five years. I buy them food, clothing, toys and pay for their schools fees."

When asked about the severity of the problem of street children, Horn was quick to say: "It’s bad, some people throw children onto the streets as if they were puppies."

As the foursome want to build a haven for the multitude of neglected street children at Rundu and from surrounding settlements, they say they have approached various donors including the Rundu Town Council for a plot, the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), NG Kerk and from overseas the group intends to contact the charity Doctors Without Borders, most commonly known by its French acronym MSF, standing for Médecins Sans Frontierés, and others for possible funding.

NCCI was approached for assistance via Mohammed Bhamjee, who is the vice chairperson, while local business tycoon Harold Pupke-witz is also on their list of potential sponsors. Her Worship the Mayor of Rundu Town Sabina Mufenda is aware of this novel idea engineered by this group of selfless women.

Once their project is realized the group intends to provide overnight shelter to abused street children and to women brutalized and traumatized by violent spouses.

Despite the good intentions of the plan to assist scores of neglected children wandering around the streets, Léa Frugier says their group will have to battle to get a piece of land on which to erect the envisioned shelter because "it’s difficult to get a plot in Rundu".

Horn said they are weighing two options – to either get a house to rent or to build one for the planned haven for abused women and children.

Ilze Müller said the planned shelter is one that should have its doors open on a 24-hour basis so that "people can come in even at 2 o’clock in the morning", and from where they could be housed temporarily and given information on how and where they could report their cases for corrective or even remedial action.

"We don’t need a luxurious place," remarked Fruger with a detectable French accent, while Horn, the group’s de-facto spokeswoman added: "all we need are the basics."

In terms of their material needs once their plan is approved and endorsed by the Management Committee of Rundu Town Council, the four women obviously trying to make a difference at the town were in unison saying they need Good Samaritans to assist them with funding for a shelter with all the basics and the necessary furniture, for instance a fully functional kitchen with a fridge, a stove, laundry room, bedrooms, as well as some blankets.

The three women also said they were concerned about children from intact homes free-lancing as street children especially in the afternoon hours when their parents were at work. They complained that bogus street children are ill mannered, which makes some people unsympathetic to them and genuine street children who are really in need.