Witness school-going children who wake up to frequent the streets when mommy went to work at 5am and they are left with neighbours.
Children of 15 years who were thrown out of school for failing endlessly and the parents did not find a school that can take them. They wake up and sit on the pavement until 13h30 when those who went to school are back and they join in the game of soccer on the street until 20h30 in the evening because the parents will not say: “Muatje, ratoko” (it is late now, come home please).
Witness the young people aged 16 to 25 who have long dropped out of school and they walk the streets on a forced march to nowhere. The other day I saw a 17-year-old who belong in some school, riding a bicycle from the Soweto Market, drinking a can of beer. I looked at my watch and it was 11h17 on a Monday morning.
I was driving through Katutura in the Dolam area near Malaka Draai. I passed someone I recognised and I got back to him. We were in school together at Dobra High School a good 40 years back. After high school he went on to teach and along the way he had decided to skip the country to join the liberation struggle.
Things did not work out and he returned to Namibia, shortly before independence. He never found a job and had left Windhoek to his ‘reservaat’ in the hope of finding a way to survive. Nothing worked out and when grandmother passed on and there was no pension to live on, he returned to Windhoek to try a hand at things and fortunately he got onto his own pension.
He lives with his two daughters and their collective four minor children. The daughters are not employed and both are below 40 and thus do not qualify for pension grants. He wanted me to assist with employment for the daughters and when I asked what they can do, he said: “ Man Bob, hulle kan huiswerk doen of iets. Kry tog enige iets, hulle maak my klaar.” (get them anything to do, they are killing me).
Evidently all these read like a story written by someone who is trying a hand at writing a novel, but these are the true circumstances of our situation. Our townships are dying, our children are getting lost to free Namibia, forced on a march to no place. Our parents are reduced to begging at best and we live in one hell of a conundrum.
And the children? They seem to be listening to no one. School-going children would be playing on the streets since 14h00 when they arrive from school until close to 21h00.
These are the children we expect to go through some education system, which education system already has its own challenges.
The next order of confusion are stray dogs in Katutura. If, theoretically speaking, we have seven hundred dogs in Katutura, at least six hundred are on the streets, playing ball with the children after school or harassing pedestrians in full view of the owners, who have no yards to reign them in.
If you politely complain to the owner that ‘do you know that by law, your dog should not be on the street’, they tell you that, you are talking big because you have a lockable yard. “So by so, the government is doing nothing to keep children in school, now they want to regulate my dog,” they would say. The last subject matter of today is, drinking on the streets. You will find someone walking on the street with an open beer bottle and sipping endlessly. The law is clear on the prohibition of public drinking and it is only enforced in Nau-aib in Okahandja.
One day I was standing with my friend Sustertjie Zamuee in front of her house in Nau-aib when three young men walked by holding open beer bottles. A police van that had just passed us driving in the opposite direction came back fast and ordered the three young men to empty their beer bottles on the sidewalk. I expressed surprise that the young men were not reluctant and Sustertije reassured me that the reason they consented in no time is because they knew it is against the law. Alcohol in society is a big challenge and one never knows where to take this, as seemingly all of us either drink, have life partners who drink or manage to pay bills because of the blessing of alcohol. Even the church has given up.