19 February 2013

Namibia: Orphan Registration Stampede At Ongwediva

Photo: IRIN
File photo of street children in Zambia.

Ongwediva — HUNDREDS of children abandoned classes the past two weeks in the central northern regions to meet the February 15 deadline for the registration of orphans and vulnerable children.

The offices of Epupa Investment at Ongwediva were flooded with orphans and guardians wanting to register children to qualify for social grants from the state. Epupa is contracted by the government to pay out pensions and social grants countrywide.

Epupa Investment's office at Ongwediva was the only office where the registration was conducted.

The registration at Ongwediva was done with only one camera, which prolonged the process.

Orphans over the age of 18 from the Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions registered themselves while those under 18 came in the company of their guardians to join the long queues.

Guardians and children alike complained about the long wait for registration and also the fact that they had to travel from far to the only office processing registrations at Ongwediva.

Leonard Shindume from Ondobe told The Namibian that transport from Okongo in the Ohangwena Region to Ongwediva in the Oshana Region costs N$140 per person. "We are really struggling and suffering to get our orphan children registered and it seems that apart from the money it will give our orphans, the process was not well thought through," he said.

Shindume said they had camped at Ongwediva for some days without food. He said some brought tents but others did not bring anything and were sleeping in the open without blankets.

According to him, he brought 17 orphans from the Okongo Constituency early last week and many have not yet been registered.

Shangeelao Kadila from Ohangwena village and Zuze Paulus from Ompungu in the Kavango Region told The Namibian over the weekend that it would be better if the registration process was handled by the constituency offices or at schools, as it was done in the past.

Paulus said several schools had complained about children not attending classes for the last two weeks because they went to the registration point at Ongwediva.

They also complained about the absence of public toilets at the Epupa office.

Selma Iipinge from Otamanzi Constituency in the Omusati Region called on the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to extend the deadline because many children have not registered.

The head of Epupa, Marius Nangolo, said the children's guardians are also to blame, because they didn't register when it was done at constituency offices last year. "Our people always want to rush and then create problems and pressure for themselves and officials," Nangolo said.

He said there is a possibility of extending the registration period, adding that more cameras might be provided at the Epupa centre.

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