Residents of DRC informal settlement in Swakopmund say they feel neglected by the government because they have been living in poor conditions coupled with poor service delivery.
The township of DRC is situated on the outskirts of Swakopmund, remote enough to create a sense of amnesia with local and regional authorities except during a time of elections. From a distance the shacks are cramped in a small area, flimsy in stature and built with materials such as plastics, trash and second hand car parts. DRC is situated on a reclaimed garbage landfill. When reading about DRC in newspapers, it is portrayed like an abyss of poverty. The residents appear indistinctive, almost without identity and their stories are treated in a manner that signifies disregard.
Some of the critical problems at the settlement include increasing poverty rates, increase in teenage pregnancies, high school dropout rates, malfunctioning water points for over 20 000 residents, spiralling crime, and a lack of proper sanitation and no extra mural facilities for children. This is further exacerbated by an increase in alcohol and drug abuse. In essence, the much heralded Harambee Prosperity Plan is yet to make landfall in DRC.
Poverty is rife and the absence of basic services has not made matters easy.
The settlement comprises of various German-funded projects such as project schools which has left its residents to wonder why people from other countries have done more for them than their own government has.
During a visit to the settlement, The Patriot spoke to Katrina Garises, a community advocate for change and also the founder of Dantago Communities Rising.
Garises has been living in DRC for over eight years.
She tells the story that upon her arrival, she noticed that poverty in the settlement was far worse than in Windhoek and immediately she made up her mind to help whether government was to help or not.
Garises noted that the government speaks so much about development but there’s little action to back up the rhetoric.
“We have children who do not go to school, children who eat from dustbins, no public toilets, people here have to relieve themselves in open areas which is dangerous for the community. This is one of the reasons there is a disease crisis in the area, especially amongst young children,” a distressed Garises said.
She further stated that many of the school children in DRC have to brace the cold weather as many go to school without shoes and proper uniforms.
“When they become more aware of their social standards they shy away because no one wants to go to school barefoot whilst others have shoes on. There is also the issue of proper lunch boxes and what is in those lunch boxes. With no feeding at school, it means that these kids will go to school with porridge which most of the time is from the previous night,” she said.
Garises highlighted that government needs to understand that there is not only a need for development in infrastructure but there is a need for people skills development as well.
“Our people need training, we need training centres for the youth so that they can equip themselves with the adequate skills to pursue jobs,” Garises noted.
“They keep saying people should go to NIMT, but what about the kids that do not have a grade ten qualification, what then are these kids supposed to do if government is not availing alternative opportunities” she said,
She called on government to note that people have human rights and government should work towards providing basic needs for the people of DRC.
Garises is more than just a spokesperson for the community. As she witnesses poverty daily, she started the community project, Dantago Communities Rising in the area to cater to some of these issues. The Dantago Communities Rising has over the years under Garises’s watch become a safe haven for its residents as it has trained women with skills, taken in the disadvantaged and offered feeding programs through her small garden and chicken farm among other things for the youth.
“I wanted to see a change in the people’s lives and in return to my surprise it’s them that have changed me a lot and made me a better person to fight for them in terms of speaking out for the voiceless” she said.
Through Dantago Communities Rising women and young girls have learned to design crafts and they sell their products at the centre which provides a means of income for household purposes. During the afternoons, Katrina takes in children from the community where they learn arts and craft, do their homework, get a warm meal and boys get special classes such as house painting.
Desiree Goeieman (11) landed a fully-paid trip to Germany to go and showcase her ballet dancing skills. She was funded by tourists who spotted her talent for ballet and made this trip possible.
“She is the very first child in DRC to get this opportunity because she is exceptionally good at ballet dancing. Here we awaken children’s talents, this makes us happy because Desiree will eventually become an inspiration to many children who would like to walk the road she travelled,” said Garises. Seventeen-year-old Ramadus Tjikati, who moved to DRC after having dropped out of school associated with the wrong crowd and often landed into trouble with the law. That now has become a thing of the past after Garises took him in.
“I used a lot of drugs, ate out of bins and begged for money on the streets, until this loving women (referring to Garises) took me in and helped me change my life around. Sadly, I relapsed a few months ago and bought drugs but I’m working on myself again because there is more to life” he noted.
Garises further noted that at her project, they believe in building foundations at a young age because once a foundation is laid, people struggle to walk away from them. “All we really need is a hand from the government because we believe that much more can be done, we cannot do it all on our own.” she highlighted.