Community members buy Iri Ivari booze 'to entertain themselves'
28 September 2020 | Education
Social media sensation Lucas 'Iri Ivari' Tsamseb's teacher is worried that he is worse off than when he initially arrived at Ondera Primary School in the Oshikoto Region in February.
Among the factors mentioned by Lena Nakatana is that community members frequently buy him alcohol “to entertain themselves”, digging a deeper hole - so to speak - and making it extremely hard to rehabilitate him. Just three months after Iri Ivari started school, the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing schools to close countrywide. Now, six months later, his is among the grades that have finally resumed.
He became popular when videos of him went viral on social media. Iri Ivari has no national documents and his age remains an enigma.
A dental report provided to social workers indicates he is between 17 and 21 years old.
Return to school
Education officials have emphasised the need for pupils to return to schools, saying previous shutdowns have shown that children who are out of school for extended periods, especially girls, are less likely to return.
But while Iri Ivari returned to school, Nakatana is worried.
The teacher said he is far worse off than when he initially arrived at school, while lamenting that the community is not helping.
She is also concerned by the gender ministry's lack of involvement after enrolling Iri Ivari. “The social worker dumped him here and only came to check on him once,” Nakatana said.
Orphaned and vulnerable
Iri Ivari's case is not an isolated one, but the ministry spokesperson Lukas Haufiku was unable to provide statistics on the number of children who have received care services so far.
Statistics from the gender ministry showed that in 2016, Namibia was home to more than 190 422 orphans and vulnerable children.
Haufiku added that Iri Ivari's case is a difficult one and said the ministry will explore other rehabilitative plans for him.
Lack of parental support
Initially when the story broke, Namibian Sun was unable to track down Iri Ivari's mother.
Haufiku, however, said she is in the same situation as her son.
“She also abuses alcohol and is no position to help him. The ministry has made a kinship care placement with his aunt, but his behaviour has become uncontrollable.”
Meanwhile, Iri Ivari refuses to leave Oshivelo, saying he gets “easy money” when he is there.
In the past, he indicated that he prefers to be an entrepreneur as that is where his interests lie, and hated the idea of being enrolled for formal education.
Haufiku explained that often, a lack of parental supervision leads to most of these cases.
Parents 'modelling' substance abuse
Haufiku warned against parents modelling substance abuse behaviour to their children.
“Most of the time, parents abuse alcohol in the presence of their children.
“They tend to send children to buy alcohol, and as a result, children normalise this behaviour and act it out.
“Social workers have also been called out to cases where mothers will take their children along to shebeens and taverns.
“This inculcates the behaviour of drinking into children from an early age,” Haufiku said.
He added that poverty leads to some parents sending their children to 'zula' on the streets, and children then learn to ease their hunger pangs by sniffing glue, petrol or benzine.
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim lives and livelihoods as health systems buckle, education is disrupted and families struggle to stay afloat. But Nakatana is adamant that Iri Ivari's fate can change.