Keetmanshoop-At only 10 years of age, Esley Stevenson has quit school after only having completed Grade 2 last year and now spends most of his time collecting garbage at the Keetmanshoop dumpsite.
As he walks around with his bag collecting empty tins and cool drink bottles, he is the shortest of all the workers there, and his face shows his tender age.
However, as New Era approached him to ask a few questions, he showed just why he fits in perfectly amongst the big boys.
He said his name was Elrico Gertze, and that he lived with his grandmother, after both his parents died in 2008 and 2014 respectively.
He cites this as the reason why he dropped out of school, because he does not receive financial support, and therefore spends his time at the dumpsite trying to make some money to sustain himself and his destitute grandmother.
He maintains he wants to go back to school but he cannot due to poverty, which forces him to work even though it is for a pittance.
But New Era soon realised, after speaking to one of the workers that all the details the 10 year old gave were untrue.
Another person at the dumpsite, Elrico Van Der Westhuizen (27), said that both of the boy’s parents were alive and lived in Keetmanshoop’s Ileni area.
He said the boy refused to go to school and would rather be with them at the dumpsite earning about N$1,200 a month, and that the boy was like one of the grown-ups, and even smoked tobacco like the other workers at the site.
The boy’s mother, Dorothea Stevenson (39) sadly related how she had run out of ideas to get her child to attend school, and that her son whose real name is Esley Stevenson dropped out of school in Grade 2.
“He started Grade 3 here at Don Bosco primary school, but he soon left school because he says he just does not want to go to school anymore. We do not know what to do,” she said.
Speaking just outside a tiny shack, which accommodates all seven of them, Stevenson said it was heart-breaking to see her child throw away his future like that.
She was also concerned that her child was using drugs as he sometimes came home looking drunk and shouted and swore at everyone.
“He gives us problems even at home. He sometimes comes home and starts insulting us, and some of the boys have informed me that he smokes dagga. It is a serious problem, but I do not know what to do,” she said.
She was however quick to take responsibility, saying she and her husband, who is the father of the boy might be to blame for the situation as they have not created the right environment at home for their five children.
She said although her husband finds casual jobs repairing cars, he does not use the money to take care of the house and the children, as they are left to depend on the small social grant from the government, and the little she makes as a part-time domestic worker, which she says is not enough.
“He drinks a lot. Most of the income he makes goes to alcohol, and we argue when he gets drunk and he insults me in front of the children,” she said.