Government revamps farm for street kids

10 May 2021 | Social Issues

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK


Government is in the process of upgrading a resettlement farm in the Omaheke Region that will serve as a home for street children.
The ministry of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare has allocated N$2 million to upgrade the farm.


Farm Kaurukus will be used to house street kids as well as those that display problematic behaviour, substance abusers, those in conflict with the law and those with emotional difficulties.

The information is contained in an action plan submitted to court this week by the gender ministry on how it plans to care for vulnerable children.

The ministry however stated that the farm is not suitable for children in custody, but would be ideal after release for prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration purposes.

“The centre is expected to host several education facilities such as a combined school for both primary and secondary, vocational school, considering carious traits such as agriculture and literacy classes,” the action plan reads.

The farm, according to the gender ministry, will serve as a rehabilitation and detention centre for children.

The plan was developed after a December court order stipulated that Sioka must, under oath on or before 31 March, submit a detailed plan and programme, to be implmented “without delay” so as to ensure that she carries out her duties as set out in chapter 5 of the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA).

The December court order arose from the discovery last year by the ombudsman that at least 30 children were imprisoned alongside adult inmates around the country.

In December, Sioka informed the court that the implementation of the act concerning imprisoned juveniles is difficult due to financial and human resource constraints.

“The ministry is forced to prioritise key provisions in an environment where financial and human resources are limited.”

For example, Sioka said the ministry only has 79 social workers to attend to a population of more than one mil-lion citizens, which is a ratio of one social worker per 13 000 children under 18.

She said the ministry manages to “soldier on” and has prioritised the implementation of several parts of the child protection act despite these hurdles.

Sioka under fire

Despite the submission of the action plan, Sioka remains in the spotlight after the ombudsman indicated that they will continue suing for contempt of court because they feel the plan is deeply flawed.

“What was provided to our legal practitioners yesterday (last week) was an undated document (not under oath) titled ‘Narrative Response Plan’ signed by the executive director of the ministry. This document is lacking in the detail required by the court order. As such we have in-structed our legal practitioners to proceed with the con-tempt proceedings,” child advocate Ingrid Husselmann at the office of the ombudsman confirmed.

Husselmann confirmed that her office would continue to pursue contempt of court motion against the minister for failing to submit the required action plan, that ignored the instructions of the court and lacked “the detailed re-quired by the court order.”

She said their decision to pursue legal action against Sioka and her ministry “underscores the seriousness of this issue.”

Sioka’s legal team scrambled over the past week to avoid being held in contempt of court, after missing the court-ordered deadline.

This led to ombudsman John Walters to file a motion for her to be personally held in contempt on 28 April.

The ombudsman asked that the minister not only be handed a conviction and sentence for the contempt shown to the courts, but also be ordered to personally pay the costs of the court action.

“The taxpayer should not bear the cost of this application.”

In his affidavit filed last week, Walters informed the court that not only had Sioka and her team ignored the court order and failed to ask for an extension but also re-fused to communicate with the ombudsman on their failure to submit an action plan over the past two months.

“The ministry of gender, equality, poverty eradication and child welfare’s wilfulness and bad faith can be gaged from the latter’s complete non-engagement with the court order, my office or that of the legal practitioners after the lapsing of the date of the non-compliance.”

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