06 Jul 2013 11:20
WAR VETERAN PLOUGHS BACK TO COMMUNITY
By Paulus Shiku
(Nampa Features Services)
SNIP RIVER, 06 JUL (NAMPA) ? A veteran of the liberation struggle is using her gratuities from the Ministry of Veterans? Affairs to educate and feed poor children in the Karas Region.
Ida !Haeiros, 68, a qualified kindergarten teacher and the first councillor for Keetmanshoop Urban Constituency, established a community kindergarten at her communal farm in Snip River village in 2001 to educate and feed poor children.
The children come from different towns and villages in Karas such as Snip River, Karasburg, Naute Dam and Keetmanshoop.
Snip River is situated 100 kilometres west of Keetmanshoop, and it is here where Ida and her husband Werner !Haeirob, 69, also a former freedom fighter, are residing.
?We never got a chance to be trained at a young age, but now that we have financial help from Government we must use it to support our neighbours and the poor.
We must not just get something from Government and never give back to the nation. I do not like the word street children - all our children should have homes,? she said.
Ida established the kindergarten with N.dollars 500 from her salary as Keetmanshoop Constituency councillor then, before improving the facility with the lump sum of N.dollars 50 000 received from the Veterans? Ministry in 2011.
The lump sum is given to all registered veterans of the liberation struggle, and this is supplemented with a monthly allowance of N.dollars 2 200 for their contribution to the liberation of Namibia.
Ida is one of the prominent Swapo-Party members who mobilised people inside Namibia to join the party and fight for the country's independence.
As such, she was arrested by the then South African apartheid regime in 1979, and spent five years behind bars in a Windhoek prison.
The brutal beating she once received from the South African police (Koevoet) during the liberation struggle, caused her right leg to continuously pain, and it sometimes swells to the point that she cannot walk.
But this does not stop her from spending her days with the children she looks after.
These children?s parents and guardians are unemployed and cannot afford to pay for their pre-school education.
Since 2001, more than 350 children have graduated from Ida's ?Help the Helpless Children Kindergarten? - registered with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.
The kindergarten is the only pre-school in Snip River, a village with 13 households and approximately 60 people.
Most of the residents are unemployed and survive on small livestock farming.
?When we came here in 2000 there was no school for the children, so I decided to use my money to start this place to educate and care for the beloved children of this region. When we were in the struggle someone was taking care of our children, so I am doing this to give back to the nation,? said Ida.
Ida and Werner are affectionately known as ?Ouma' (grandmother) and 'Oupa' (grandfather) of Snip River.
With the little help she sometimes gets from parents and good Samaritans such as the Ebenezer Church Centre in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Ida caters for meals, accommodation, medical costs, clothes, education materials, transport and all necessities for the children.
This year, the kindergarten accommodates 15 children - 13 boys and two girls - from the age of two to six years.
These children stay as ordinary members of the family, where they learn all sorts of life lessons in the classroom and house environment.
The learners are taken to their parents after every three months for holiday, but parents can visit their children any time.
Children are admitted at two years old, and receive pre-school certificates after graduation at six years old.
Parents pay a once-off N.dollars 20 which covers for medical care, if needed, at the local clinic.
The kindergarten does not take in children of five years old, because they will not spend enough time at the kindergarten, but accept four-year-olds.
Two female employees take care of children on a daily basis, and Ida does the formal teaching.
Asked about her former students, Ida said unfortunately, due to poverty and the unpleasant environment where they find themselves after leaving the farm, those who went far in school only reached Grade 10 or 11 and do simple jobs, if any.
She lost contact with most of them.
Ida noted that there is demand from parents for her to introduce Grade One and Two, but she refused, saying it is a big responsibility because she is getting old.
Ouma and Oupa have a 22-year-old daughter Anna-Marie Kaputu they refer to as the 'Lady of the house', who will, hopefully, continue the legacy when they die.
Kaputu is Ida?s only biological child, but Werner has 23 other children before they got married 25 years ago, and they regard them as one big family.
?We are also grandparents,? said Ida proudly.
At the farm, the couple keeps goats, donkeys, cows, pigs and also farm with a species of Tilapia fish which they do not sell but consume at home.
The Tilapia is kept in two ponds, each accommodating 60 fish, and being harvested after three to five months.
?We will continue to help until we depart this world. We are not saying we have enough, we use the little we have to give back to our people who cannot help themselves.
So, anyone is welcome to meet us halfway like those who usually help us,? said the former freedom fighter.