Swakopmund — A group of street children that were running rampant in this tourist town, have been cornered by the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) in an effort to restore order.
'Street child' is a term applied to a homeless child residing primarily in the streets of a city or town, typically in a developing country.
They are often subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation, or, in extreme cases, murder.
The group of seven boys and one girl was apprehended on Friday morning in a deserted garage behind a nightclub in the central business district (CBD), while they were getting ready to go and 'hunt' for breakfast.
According to Swakopmund Police Station Commander, Chief Inspector Johanna van Rooyen, a recent incident in the CBD caused NamPol to act on the violations perpetrated by the children.
"They broke a bottle and threatened a security guard at a favourite tourist restaurant whilst tourists were watching," Van Rooyen explained. The youngsters detained by the police range between the ages of 13 and 23.
They were transported to the offices of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in a joint effort to address the persistent problem of street children roaming the streets of the town, begging for food and/or money from tourists and residents.
When social workers questioned the children, some of them said they have been on the streets since a very young age fending for themselves.
It was found that they come from different towns in the country. Principal social worker, Margret Richter, explained to Nampa that when the children are handed over to them, they cross-examine the children to find out what their circumstances are and where they live.
"Some of the children only have one parent alive and when they are taken to their alleged homes, we find out they were lying about where their actual homes are. Sometimes when we drop them off at their homes, they point out houses where the doors are locked and no one is home, and as soon as they get an opportunity, they run away again," she said.
Richter noted that one of the children detained on Friday already appeared twice in court on charges of theft.
"This is not the first time we are dealing with these kids who have become a nuisance," she said.
Nampa spoke to some of the children to find out why they chose a life on the streets, and the youngest of the group said "the street called me". When asked what they do with the money they receive from begging, one said that they give it to their relatives.
The highest grade one member of the gang of street children ever reached is Grade Nine. Richter said one of the underlying reasons for their choice of life is drug addiction.
"Some of them really join the life on the streets because of extreme poverty, but the main reason is their addiction to drugs. One of these children in custody was caught with dagga a while back," she said.
The social worker further said that five of the children present were at their office on previous occasions, but it was the first time that a girl was brought to her office.
"We will launch an investigation to determine her situation," said Richter, adding that there are not many options to address the issue of street children, since it is a very difficult challenge.