Blouwes’ unemployed youth throw in the towel

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Matheus Hamutenya

Blouwes-While many youth flock to towns in search of employment, many of their peers in Blouwes have given up on finding work. The youth here say they have gotten tired of looking for a job without any success.

Over the years the hope of finding work has been dashed for many young people, over and over, and many now have thrown in the towel.

They say they have given up on the idea that they will one day get a job if they keep knocking on employers’ doors.

Here, many hopeless youth now just sit at home. And while they are helpful in doing household chores, many of them depend on their parents and grandparents’ old age pension grants for survival, making things difficult for many a household here.

Marius Hendriks, 20, is one of those that have given up on looking for a job, citing rejection by many companies. He narrates that he, like most of his peers at the forgotten settlement, is a school dropout and thus it’s very difficult to find a job without the necessary qualifications and skills.

Instead, he stays in the comfort of his mother’s home than embark on a journey where failure is assured.

Hendriks narrates that he left school in Grade 7, when he was aged 17, and since then he had never landed a permanent job. From time to time, and if luck is on his side, he gets casual work when other residents construct their houses, which he indicated was not too often.

“There is no work – I tried looking for work but I’m always told there are no vacancies, so what can I do?”

Hendriks says that after so much rejection he has no courage left to stand up and go out there to look for a job anymore, and thus he sits at home with his mother and two sisters, waiting on the mother to provide from her old-age pension grant.

As he takes a breather in narrating his pitiable tale, he pulls from his pockets a little tobacco and a small piece of newspaper, from which he rolls a cigarette.

How can you afford tobacco if you are unemployed, we asked him, to which he simply replied: “I struggle [local meaning for struggling to maintain a well-being]”. He added that tobacco products are expensive at the settlement as there are few suppliers.

Despite the rejection and hopelessness, Hendriks says he is optimistic that he and others in a similar situation can be assisted in one way or another, so that they can one day be independent.

“If I can’t get a job, at least the government can give me some kind of help, for instance if I’m given a few goats to start farming I will be able to stand on my own – most people are farmers here,” he says.

Theophiline Boois, 23, also narrates her frustration with the job market, saying she has been jobless since dropping out of school in 2011, after failing to obtain the minimum points required to move to Grade 11.

The mother of two indicated that since then, she has handed her curriculum vitae to possible employers countless times but her efforts have never yielded any positive outcome.

“I’m always looking for work but I don’t get any – I can’t even remember how many times I have handed my CV in, but I never got any job offer, not even a call to an interview,” she said.

Amanda Lukas, 31, is also one of the many at the settlement who just can’t seem to find a job. She narrates that after both her parents passed on when she was young, she was left in the care of her aunt, and while her aunt tried her best to provide for her and other dependants, things got difficult when she went to secondary school at Keetmanshoop.

She says her aunt couldn’t afford to pay for her hostel and school fees, while essentials such as groceries were also hard to get and these financial circumstances forced her to quit school in 2002.

She briefly gives an account of how she has survived from doing odd jobs such as babysitting, but says working conditions always proved unbearable, leaving her with no choice but to quit the jobs.

Lukas now sits at home and depends on her husband, who is a farmworker, to provide for her, on top of the N$250 monthly government grant per child that she receives, but she says this is barely enough.

“My husband doesn’t make a lot, and the money from the government is helpful but it’s just enough to buy food, nothing else,” she noted.

She adds that it’s now difficult for her to look for a job, as she has no one to leave her children with, as they attend school at the settlement.

But while unemployment at the settlement remains the main problem, the lack of recreational facilities, especially for the youth, is also turning out to be a problem, and the young residents said there is absolutely nothing they can keep themselves busy with.

Lukas indicated that this often results in many young people getting involved in unproductive and sometimes illegal activities, and as Boois puts it, for many there is nothing else to do to entertain themselves than drink alcohol.

“If we don’t have anything to do, we just drink,” she says.
Linda Byhl, a health assistant and resident of the settlement, explained that there are no recreational activities for young people and this leads to many abusing alcohol, which situation she deemed as worrisome.

She says because many of these youth are unemployed and have no source of income, their parents who are mostly pensioners are the ones who suffer in the long run, as money is taken from them to buy alcohol, adding that some resort to stealing just to get money to get their hands on a bottle of alcohol.

“We have cases where young men steal goats and take it to those selling alcohol and exchange it for that,” she said.

Although young men could be seen enjoying themselves playing soccer, their female counterparts seemed to have no activities to do such as sport, and when asked what they do, one jokingly replied: “Deliver (babies), that’s the only job we have here.”

And although jokingly stated, this seems to be some true reflection of how life at the settlement is, as many of the young women New Era spoke to, mostly between the ages of 20-25, already have one or two children.

Jurgen Plaatjies, 25, is one of the few to have made something out of his life. He is a health extension trainee and says not all is lost and that the young people here can still get opportunities.

He says because many youth in the area are school dropouts, they have to be catered for by a special programme that will equip them with certain technical skills, so that they are able to work for themselves and generate an income.

He suggests that the young be taken to vocational training centres to gain skills in various fields, such as carpentry and bricklaying, which he says will allow them to be self-employed in future.

The settlement has a population of about 300 people and is situated north-east of Keetmanshoop.

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