Windhoek-Someone once said “the social stigmatisation directed at street children is based on their appearance”.
I spent one morning with a group of street children and young adults and under all the dirt and grime.
All I saw were people who lacked warmth, love and compassion from society.
I walked in on them sharing a joint, which they killed when their lookout alerted them to my presence. Boys as young as 10, high as kites.
I introduced myself and established my intentions. Jerome recognized me from a previous encounter and so did Charles, who gave me hugs. I was met with defensive stares, but as we continued to engage they warmed up to me. Jerome (18) took the lead in talking, explaining how his little brother Romeo and he both dropped out of primary school after their parents died. Many echoed how they dropped out of school, some were honest enough to tell me “aunty dis omdat on stout was”.
Despite having authorities intervene, most came back to the street. Some have families at nearby farms, Gobabis, Rehoboth all the way down to Keetmanshoop.
And on this particular day, 30-year-old Richard Vries was looking for his 13-year-old brother. He told me how Jonas keeps running away in spite of his parental “home” not being broken.
They stay in groups and they start the day off by hitting the street to “zula” at the traffic lights. With the little money they collect, they purchase packets of meat offcuts, maize meal or bread and the rest is used to purchase weed and petrol that they sniff.
“It’s easy to get this (referring to the weed) the streets are filled with merchants.”
They go as far as telling me there is a lady at another homeless spot dubbed the White House, who has no issue selling drugs to the young ones. Violence on the street is high and this is due to drug abuse.
Sleeping inside the structure or outside under the tree, the 25-plus boys have made this place across the street from BON their “home”, Warmbad as they call it. And if you look a little closer, one of them is actually a girl. Geraldine, aged 16, is dressed as a boy because that is how they protect her.
As much as they continue to choose the streets or spin the stories justifying their being on the street, these street children all have something in common – they want better for themselves.