The lack of job opportunities for the youth in rural areas remains a major concern, but while some in this age group flock to urban areas in search of greener pastures, many here feel trapped within the boundaries of their village.
Vaalgras village is located about 60 km northeast of Keetmanshoop and is considered a farming area, with many residents farming mostly with goats, sheep or cattle. The village is surrounded by commercial farms, with the nearest urban centre being Keetmanshoop.
While some young people have managed to leave the village in search of better opportunities, a multitude of them remained behind, citing lack of accommodation as the main hindrance to moving away.
Others say although they are willing to move out of the village to urban areas in search of employment opportunities, they have no place to live in the towns and cities and thus they feel it is better to stay home and wait on their parents to provide.
Many youth here are early school-leavers and thus have few qualifications to secure decent jobs. With job opportunities hard to come by, many have resorted to make a living by looking after livestock at the village or nearby farms.
One such young man is 22-year-old Valentinus Brandt, who dropped out of school in Grade 9 and returned to the village last year. He has since been dependent on casual work for any income.
He said he only manages to find work for a short period of time, especially when there is a government building to be constructed at the village, such as the construction of the new four prefabricated classrooms at the Vaalgras Primary School, where he and his fellow youths were recently employed as temporary handymen.
“I only work when there is a tender to construct something here. When there is nothing I just sit at home, but I cannot go to Keetmanshoop as I have no place to stay there,” he said.
He further said that while there are very few opportunities at the village, many young people at the village are unwilling to take up jobs such domestic workers or farmworkers, citing unfavourable work conditions and low pay.
“There are no jobs here. On the farms there are just jobs to look after sheep and a young person like me cannot look after sheep and get only N$1,200 per month” he remarked.
Magrietha //Kheibes, 24, a mother of two, is one of many young people here who are without jobs and feel trapped in their surroundings, as they say they have nowhere to live if they were to go to urban areas to find work.
She told New Era that she was once offered a job as a live-in domestic worker in Windhoek, but her contract came to a premature end, as she left after only one week on the job due to the low salary and bad treatment from her employers. “My salary was N$900, so I quit because the money was too little and my bosses were not treating me well,” she said.
//Kheibes, like many others here, quit school in Grade 8 in 2008 and has since then lived with her parents, on whom she and her two children depend. She said when days are good she makes a little money as a hairdresser, but that is not enough as she only gets one or two people per month, which does not generate enough to make a living.
Like other young people here, she is reluctant to take up a job on the surrounding farms, because of the perceived harsh working conditions and low salaries. Ironically, she said her father takes care of the family from the little he earns from looking after someone’s livestock.
“I stay with my parents. My father looks after someone’s sheep and we all depend on him to provide from the little he makes.”
She said she is willing to leave the village to go to Keetmanshoop and look for a job, but reiterated that accommodation in town is a problem.
Manfred Brandt, 19, recently joined the ranks of the unemployed at the village, as he decided to end his school career early by not registering for Grade 9. He said schools in Keetmanshoop had rejected him due to his age.
He further explained that finding a job is difficult, even on the surrounding farms, as many farm owners already have enough employees and he ruled out going to bigger towns in search of work, saying he cannot afford a place to live in town, nor does he have family to accommodate him.
“For now I’m just at home. I cannot go to Keetmanshoop as there is no place for me to stay and people will ask you to pay rent, money which I do not have,” he said.
Despite the fact that many youth are reluctant to take up menial farm jobs, Bertus Windstaan, 24, once had a shot at it, but didn’t last long. He says he stopped after a few months, as he could not cope with the working conditions and the measly salary of N$500. He said he would rather sit at home than work for peanuts.
“N$500 was too little, so I left the job and I now stay with my girlfriend and grandmother and we all depend on her pension,” he stated.
Windstaan added that since he quit the job on the farm, he helps around the house with chores and looks after his grandmother’s livestock, while hoping for any new projects in the area so that he can get casual work.