WINDHOEK, 19 OCT (NAMPA) -
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare on Friday treated children living and working on the streets of Windhoek to a number of fun activities at its After School Centre in the Grysblok residential area.
The event was amongst others attended by members of the City Police and Namibian Police Force (NamPol), as well as pastors and officials from various government ministries who all took time off their schedules to take part in activities with the children.
Speaking to the media at the event, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare?s senior public relations officer, Charlie Matengu said it was aimed at exploring strategies to help get children off the streets and to create awareness of the centre.
The day was also aimed at establishing cooperation with 'street kids' and the relevant government ministries, community members and other stakeholders.
The children were treated to makeovers - there was a salon stand for girls where they had their hair and nails done, while a barber shop was set up for boys where they had their hair cut.
They also received clean clothes, and could drop off their clothes at a laundry stand to be washed and collected later.
Children old enough to attend primary school were rounded up from the streets of the capital city, while smaller children - some of whom do not attend school - were picked up from Okahandja Park and will be put into schools next year by the centre. The children also played soccer and had lunch.
Approximately 10 adult homeless people and 20 children who have homes but are living under difficult circumstances and not going to school, also attended the special day.
The head of the centre, Maggy Katimba said children come to the centre after school and are assisted with homework and computer lessons by staff members and student teachers from the University of Namibia (UNAM).
She noted that the children also do various projects and visit the library. "Once they are done, they eat soup and then take part in different sports activities. We have various sports activities such as professional wrestling, gymnastics and boxing that are affiliated with the different sports clubs, so the children also compete on national and international level," she said.
These activities during the day keep the children off the streets and discourage them from being tempted into committing unlawful activities. The centre's staff go out on the streets and encourage students to join the centre. Once they agree, they are then brought to the centre and taken care off by a 'house mother', while receiving counselling from social workers who also trace their families and integrate them with their families.
Katimba said the children are also sent to boarding schools outside Windhoek to prevent them from going back to the streets. The centre receives children from as far as Keetmanshoop, Rundu and Gobabis. Katimba however expressed concern that the number of children on the streets in the capital city is escalating, especially children working on the streets in order to make a living.
Asked as what drives the children to the streets, she said: "From our experience, it is child abuse at home and the pressures associated with child-headed households. Once parents pass away, children continue to stay at home and go onto the street to sell something. Poverty is also another factor."
Alcohol and drug abuse can also not be excluded as a contributing factor of what drives Namibian children onto the streets, Katimba said. She stressed that although education is free, these children do not have anything to eat at their homes and in the end opt to go to the streets to work by washing people's cars, amongst other types of work.
She said the only challenge is that the After School Centre in Windhoek is the only one in the whole country and has to cater for all regions. The centre was started in 1992 and currently caters for 105 children.
(NAMPA) EK/CT /AS