Girls prefer babysitting to schooling

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ARIAMSVLEI – Two under-aged girls are working as babysitters at the dates-producing Desert Fruit Farm, 70 kilometres from Ariamsvlei

The two girls believed to be 10 and 15 were brought from Kavango East by two workers employed at the farm in order to look after their children while they were at work.

Only known as Maria, the 10-year-old told New Era that she had dropped out of school in the 3rd grade while the 15-year-old, known only as Mbaita, said she has never attended school.

Attempts by New Era to establish why and how they are at the farm instead of attending school proved futile due to language barrier but their low state of education could be seen as they were not even sure how old they were.

Contacted for comment telephonically, Lukas Muyenga confirmed he was Mbaita’s guardian and that he had brought her to look after his children as his wife had also started working at the farm but indicated the teenager has never attended school in her life, as she refused her parents’ orders to go to school on several occasions.

Muyenga narrated that he was Mbaita’s grandfather and he decided to bring her along with him so that she could be useful as she was just seated at home doing nothing prior to that and added that he had never interfered in her education.

“She was not attending school when I got her. Her parents tried their best but she refused to go to school,” he said.

He further told New Era that the teenager’s stay with his children at home is not in vain as he takes care of her and gives her a monthly pay of N$350, which he sometimes sends to her parents back in Kavango East.

Maria’s guardian also sang the same song, saying although he is not related to her, he had taken her from Katere village in Kavango East to come and look after his children and in return he pays her N$350 per month and renders other forms of support to her when necessary.

He also denied having a hand in the girls dropping out of school, saying that when he brought her she had already dropped out of school. He added that he suspects she dropped out due to hardships the family was enduring at her home village.

The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation this month introduced minimum wages for the country’s estimated 46 000 domestic workers, prescribing N$1 218 per month as the minimum wage for domestic workers and outlawing child labour.

Swapo’s //Kharas regional coordinator Matheus Mumbala, who was at the farm at the time on a tour of the region, voiced his disappointment that the girls were not in school and urged the farm owner to look into the matter and tell the two workers to get the right people to look after their children.

He was also afraid that their future is destroyed by staying at the farm, highlighting the high risk of them being impregnated by farm workers.

Johannes van der Wuldt, shareholder in Desert Fruit, assured Mumbala that the case would be looked into. He said he was unaware the girls were babysitting but thought they were the workers’ children.

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