Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka yesterday made an impassioned plea to the public to refrain from giving street children money and food on the streets, as it fuels the problems and is not a lasting solution.
Sioka, who spoke on the challenges regarding the street children, said the Minister of Child Welfare had taken note that significant numbers of children continue to live on the streets, despite government efforts to keep them off the streets. She said this is due to money they get n the streets.
Some of the street children allegedly make up to N$200 per day and use this to buy alcohol and drugs, amongst other things.
Currently the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is busy working with group of eight street children, whom they want to get off the streets.
The ministry is mandated to care and protect children under the age of 18 years, including street children, who are classified as children needing protection, care and other long-term interventions.
The ministry has an after-school centre, which offers overnight accommodation, counselling services, school integration, family re-integration and assists in the tracing of families of children found on the streets.
The ministry also has an interim night shelter, which is an overnight facility admitting children between the age of six and 18 years old.
“Parents and Samaritans who give [money to] street children must stop it. Don’t give money, because we are trying to get them off the streets and put them in our after school centre. They will bath, eat, change their clothes and go back on the street where there is money,” said Sioka.
She added that she sees children begging at traffic lights on daily basis at a shopping mall in Olympia and has reported the matter to Cabinet. She said some street children know her vehicle and run away when she stops there.
She claimed food is nothing to them, as money is all-important.
Sioka said they have a problem with street children from Gobabis, who have been transported back several times but surprisingly returned to Windhoek the following day.
“I have released a bakkie to take these children to Gobabis, but the next day they are back in Windhoek.”
“Why is it only Gobabis? Why not Karas or Rehoboth? You (media) can help us find out who is bringing these children to Windhoek. Why are they receiving a helping hand here in Windhoek? Maybe to tell you the truth, I think there is an organised group bringing the children here,” Sioka alleged.
She further said the ministry is after the culprit and warned those responsible not to toy with government. “I’m warning any person involved in this syndicate to stop. I’m a cruel woman, in a way that we will go to court… I’m still gathering the evidence,” the minister warned.
Sioka said their school re-integration programme was very successful, as many children who through this programme have never returned to the streets. “There are currently 125 children in the school integration programme.
These children were all found on the streets of Windhoek and were successfully integrated into schools due to the intervention of the ministry.
The minster said of the children who have gone through the programme, many have gone beyond Grade 10 and 12 and are serving in the police, defence force and hold professional positions.
She added that some of the children are enrolled with tertiary institutions and one of them just completed her degree in economics in Cuba. “We also believe that children have the potential to change if they are provided with the necessary support,” she noted.