Break Time Brings in the Dough

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By Lesley-Anne van Wyk Okahandja Many jobless people might find it easier to blame poverty and unemployment for their problems. But there is a shining example to be found in a young lady living in the Five Rand squatter settlement near Okahandja. Her name is Nelago Tobias and she makes a living by selling her honey-brown and sugar-glazed vetkoek to the 286 children of Five Rand Primary School. At first glance, you would think that she should be among the ranks of her customers, but this industrious young lady avidly rejects all such claims and continues to count out her customers’ change while she jabs her spongy wares into colourful newspaper pages. Her spread of coins grows wide in the mid-morning sun. When the bell rings for break time, Nelago knows that she will make the money she needs to pay for her studies through Namcol. She attends her classes after hours from 16h00 to 20h00 everyday. She is sitting next to four other such enterprising individuals against the outside of the school fence. Betty Mpingana has butterscotch sweets, Wilson’s toffees, chocolate Easter eggs and spicy maize-puff chips for the children. All of which she sells from between 10 and 50 cents. Andries Lukas has brought 50 vetkoeks with him today and 15 minutes into break time he has sold more than half. He grins when he assures me that he will sell all of them by the end of break time. The Five Rand squatter settlement used to be a farm until people began to settle on the land. When this started happening, most goods, such as meat and maize meal, could be purchased for the sum of five Namibian dollars. Shortly after independence many people from the north flocked to Okahandja in search of work and other opportunities, education and improved services. The Government bought the farm from its owner and the settlement has since grown in numbers and now has its own school. The dusty roads of Five Rand are dense with its hotchpotch shacks and the screaming poverty that plagues its inhabitants. People’s lives here are as entwined as the corrugated walls of their shelters. It’s not difficult to imagine the destruction a cooking-fire gone wrong could exact on the bare security and scant possessions of this settlement. But the problems of the settlement are equalled with the promises of relief. The community now has water services from the municipality. A contract is in place to provide electricity to the settlement within a week, according to Okahandja Mayor, Christofine Paulus. She also mentioned that the municipality is working on providing a sewage network within the year. The mayor added that after a recent fire in the settlement, the municipality has relocated a number of people to another area close to the school, in order to prevent crowding.