Cold Winds Blow In Babylon

04 Jun 2015 13:10pm
By Anna Tervahartiala


WINDHOEK, 04 JUN (NAMPA) - The month of June heralds the height of winter in Namibia.
This year has been no exception as the cold temperatures usually associated with this month continues to affect many without proper accommodation structures.
As the first day of June turned into night, the temperature plunged. During Monday night, the temperature dropped to almost zero degrees Celsius and Tuesday morning was greeted with a cloudy sky.
All day, the mercury did not rise much above 13 degrees Celsius. Even though the afternoon sun lit up the sky, its rays were cooled down by the strong wind.
The whirling winds of the approaching winter could be felt on the hillocks of the Windhoek's Babylon informal settlement.
Here, nestled neatly amongst the hills of Babylon, lies the Sunshine Kindergarten.
Albertine Ribebe, the head of the kindergarten, held her jacket tight as she gazed around the quiet yard of the day care centre. On a normal day, the kindergarten hosts 23 children, but during winter months the number of children drops drastically.
“After sleeping through a cold night it is difficult for a child to go to school or come to the day care,” the founder of the kindergarten explained.
The kindergarten started operating in 2010 in order to provide children with a safe place to stay during the day.
“Before we started our work, the children would spend their days on the streets,” Ribebe said.
The residents of the informal settlements in Katutura are affected by the winter months drastically as many houses lack electricity. This leaves the hordes of residents here who call Babylon home literally out in the cold, with little to protect themselves from the cold of the night and the strength of the wind during the day.
According to Ribebe the weather is just one of the issues affecting the children of Babylon. The change of weather is hard to cope with in a neighbourhood with high rates of unemployment. The children of Sunshine Kindergarten are not only shivering from cold, but of hunger too.
The day care centre charges parents N. dollars 100 per month per child. Even though the price of the day care is kept as low as possible, most of the parents find the monthly fee too high for their budget.
Due to this unstable income, the day care lacks adequate supplies of blankets and food to protect the children from the looming cold.
Aside from the monthly fees received from parents, Sunshine Kindergarten has been supported by government subsidies.
Although the kindergarten signed a subsidy contract with the Khomas Regional Council, Ribebe says the kindergarten has not received the monthly subsidy of N. dollars 1 500 since February.
The chief community liaison officer in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Maria Mberirua was surprised to hear of the Sunshine Kindergarten’s lack of funds.
Going through her files when Nampa spoke to her at the Khomas Regional Council this week, Mberirua explained that the regional council provides monthly subsidies to 80 caregivers in the Khomas Region.
The subsidies are distributed to selected kindergartens which fulfil the criteria of working in a marginalised community and providing day care for a group of more than 15 children, amongst others.
The subsidies provided by the ministry are distributed according to contracts signed for three months at a time.
In order to receive the subsidy, the caregiver must provide the council with a monthly attendance list and documentation of the work done in the kindergarten.
“We distribute money for caregivers, but we are also interested in seeing the centres develop,” Mberirua explained.
Even though Ribebe said she had not received funding for the past three months, the documents found at the regional office indicated that the kindergarten had received funding until March.
“It might be that we have the wrong bank account or that the kindergarten has not met the monthly criteria for the subsidy,” Mberirua explained.
She was not able to find the list of attendance from the Sunshine Kindergarten from her files.
As the weather gets ever colder, the lack of funding could affect the daily life of the children of Babylon for some time to come.
Even though the weather was predicted to be warming up towards the end of the week, winter is inevitable.
“If you cook for them today, they will come tomorrow. But if you don’t cook for two days, it is difficult to make them come,” Ribebe concluded.