‘We want to become pilots, doctors’
Children from informal settlements have resorted to begging at city malls to collect money for school necessities as the academic year gets under way.
10 January 2022 | Education
While the government thunders a ‘free education’ mantra, many poor children are thronging the highways and shopping mall parking lots to beg for money for school stationery, uniforms and food.
The education ministry announced last week that it had budgeted N$51 million for education, but many poor learners still face harassment from schools and risk being denied education because they cannot buy uniforms and stationery.
Government’s stance that children may not be denied education under such circumstances sometimes falls on deaf ears.
This has pushed children aged between five and 14 to hitchhike, often walking for kilometres, from Okahandja Park informal settlement to beg for alms at traffic lights near Grove Mall in Kleine Kuppe or the Maerua Mall in Olympia.
Namibian Sun caught up with 28-year-old Dankies Urikhos who came to ‘zula’ to buy a school uniform, tights, underclothes and stationery for her daughter, who is starting school today.
“We get here with the N$10 bus, money which we zula [hustle] there in the location. My child doesn’t come here every day when the school starts, I just brought her today because I came to zula. I zula because I cannot find a job and people don’t treat you well if you work for them. We make at least N$50 or N$20 and we use that money also to take the bus back home,” she said.
Out and about
Alongside her was a group of unsupervised children, three groups of siblings and two orphans who came to beg money for food and stationery.
Some of these learners say they needed food for their houses since their parents do not work.
Others were on the streets begging for food, stationery and the prescribed school uniforms that are demanded by some schools without any negotiations, regardless of your financial background.
One of the children, a 14-year-old boy, told Namibian Sun that they stand in the street begging around the clock in order to buy ‘combos’ that can last the family a week while they are in school.
“When we manage to buy these combos then we don’t have to come during the week when the school is on, but sometimes we have no choice and even have to bunk school,” he said.
Almost in one voice, the children said when they grow up, they want to drive their own cars.
An eleven-year-old boy said he wanted to become a doctor because most of his family members are ill or in hospital.
Another one wants to become a police officer to keep his family safe.
A timid 10-year-old girl, looking rather like a five-year-old, said she wants to become a pilot so that she can “fly away, far from here.”
The leader of the group, a 14-year-old, explains that when they have not made enough money to all take a taxi back home, they try to zula for the little ones.
“Sometimes, some of the taxi drivers are very kind and offer to take the small ones back home. On one day we can make around N$20 or N$50. The smaller ones are usually the ones who get the most, because people feel sorry for them.”
However, some drivers are rude and reckless and show no compassion or patience with begging children and often push them out of the way with their vehicles.
“Last week one of the girls, she did not come today, was hit by a car on the leg and she fell and was dragged on the road. She is now at home until she is better. The driver just drove off without saying anything,” he said.