Wednesday 12 May 2021
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Street football may promote social inclusion in Namibia

It is end June. The skyline around Windhoek is grey. It is chilly. The cold breeze from the Cape has forced the temperatures around Windhoek bellow, zero. Motorists on the Sam Nujoma Drive and Robert Mugabe Avenue crossing wait for their turns at the traffic lights where the two routes meet each other. Drivers have the windows of their cars tightly closed to keep out the winterly breeze. Pedestrians are clad in heavy coats, headgears and scarfs. There is an exception though! Two, bare-footed boys, clad in oversized torn clothing were sauntering around knocking on the windows of cars and demanding attention from cars occupants. They hope to draw empathy and accompanying spare change. That is how they survive comes winter, rain or sunshine. They represent the face of homelessness in Windhoek.
According to journalist Albertina Nakale, writing in New Era newspaper of June 23,2018, there were an estimated 21 street children in Erongo Region; 12  in Otjozondjupa, 17 in Oshikoto, 46 in Ohangwena, 13 in Oshana, 20 in Kavango East, 20 in Omaheke, 38 in Karas, 10 in Kunene, 20 in Hardap and 15 in Zambezi. However, Minister Doreen Sioka of Gender Equality and Child welfare, admitted that there are no proper records regarding the number of street children in Namibia. The fact is that children as young as ten years old are seen roaming the streets of Windhoek.
Dr Libertine Amathila,  the Mother of Compassion and Social Solidarity, in 1994 opened the After- Care Children’s Centre in Khomasdal. She created the Centre to be a safety haven for street children.
The After-Care Centre had a capacity of catering for 500 children. It was reported that in 2018 the Centre enrolled 72 street children only. These children were provided with accommodation, social council and afternoon classes. The majority of street children remain, however, on the street. They are not interested to enrol at the Centre. The Windhoek Observer newspaper reported on 13 April 2018 that there has been an upsurge in the number of children roaming the streets of Windhoek. They hang around at road junctions and shopping malls begging for a living. They interfere with traffic movements. They tout shoppers and passer-by for money. Due to harsh conditions in which they live some have become drug addicts.
The homeless street children are a social problem. Their way of leaving isolates them from main- stream society. They are not able to benefit from existing safety nets targeting other children.
According to Minister Sioka, social workers and law reinforcement agencies have been trying their level best to curb child homelessness with limited success. Perhaps it is time now to try other methods.
In a recent “Hardtalk” programme of BBC, Michael Sheen, a Welsh actor and social activist told a story of Dee Sansome. Dee Sansome is a Welsh lady. At the early age she got addicted to drugs. By age of 20 years she was imprisoned on charge of theft. She stole money to fund for her drug addiction. Upon release from prison she continued to use drugs. A civic organisation in Cardiff started a Homeless Street Football Club for the homeless people. Dee Sansom joined that Club and started to play football with other homeless people.
Michael Sheen was made a Patron of the Homeless Street Football Club. In 2017 a Homeless World Cup was organized in Oslo. Michael Sheen accompanied the Welsh Homeless Football Club to Oslo. Dee Sansome scored the winning goal for the Welsh team. She told the media after such an experience: “… Football helped me start achieving and believing in myself”.
Street football help homeless people to break barriers in social alienation, overcome social exclusion and build individuals self- confidence. People who have experienced homelessness and drug addiction are given a chance to rebuild their confidence through training and playing the game.
With delight about his experience of the results of the Homeless Word Cup, Michael Sheen observed: “… Street Football Wales achieved incredible change for homeless adults with the most complex lives and challenges”. He concluded: “… The transformation players make, using football as a hook, is just inspiring to witness and something we can all positively contribute towards.”
This is indeed a fascinating story. Homelessness is not just a Namibian phenomenon. It is a world-wide problem. Namibia, however, should learn from others as how the problem is being addressed. Michael Sheen, despite his successful career in acting, never forgot his community. He identified with its social challenges.
This year he organised the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff where 500 players from 50 nations participated. Here at home, we have Dr Libertine Amathila who has dedicated her life to the welfare of Ovatwe and other needy communities in the Kunene Province spending her own time and money. She is truly Mother Compassion and Social Solidarity. We need another significant self to focus on homelessness in Namibia. The street children should be organised in sports clubs or cultural clubs where they can showcase their talents. We need a team of homeless people to represent Namibia in the next Homeless World Cup.
This approach may help us to rescue street children from hopelessness, social exclusion and poverty into to the new world of self- confidence, self-worth and productivity. This is a national challenge!

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