On Thursday, 22 September 2016, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek on behalf of the United Nations Partnership Assistance Framework (UNPAF) Poverty Pillar visited the Deutsche Höhere Privatschule (DHPS) for its Project Day, at which students had the opportunity to talk with ‘experts’ from diverse sectors in Namibia in regards to poverty eradication and urbanisation.
Starting off the morning, the experts introduced themselves to the students in the school’s auditorium. Then, the students had the opportunity to visit different classrooms to have one-on-one conversations with experts, to hear more information about each expert’s work as well as to ask questions.
Four groups of bright, enthusiastic learners visited UNIC Windhoek’s room to learn more about poverty in Namibia as well as the work of the United Nations. Starting off the presentation, Ms. Anthea Basson, the National Information Officer asked the students what poverty means to them. The students, who had an in-depth understanding of poverty, mentioned that there are two different types of poverty including absolute poverty and relative poverty.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), absolute poverty ‘measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The concept of absolute poverty is not concerned with broader quality of life issues or with the overall level of inequality in society.’ UNESCO defines relative poverty as ‘poverty in relation to the economic status of other members of the society: people are poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living in a given societal context.’ However, both these definitions ‘are largely concerned with income and consumption.’
UNESCO explains that the concept of social exclusion has provided a more dynamic definition to poverty which looks at poverty in the income perspective, the basic needs perspective and the capability perspective.
Ms. Basson then went on to describe poverty in Namibia. The students were shocked to learn that 34% of children in Namibia live in poverty. UNICEF found through its Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA), various dimensions contribute to child poverty including energy (the child’s family’s main source of cooking energy is not electricity, gas or paraffin), sanitation (child does not use improved toilet facilities), housing (wall material of the child’s home is not permanent, not made of bricks) and social (head of the child’s household is female and not/never married). UNICEF found that the majority of children aged 0-5 (158,199 children) were deprived in 3 of the dimensions in 2011.
The United Nations works closely with the Government of Namibia in four key areas, one of which is poverty eradication. Ms. Basson explained that the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare works specifically to eradicate poverty in Namibia and recently launched its Food Bank Initiative. Although leaders are taking steps towards ending poverty, Ms. Basson emphasised the importance of all people working together to bring about positive change, even the younger generation.
When asked about what can be done to eradicate poverty the students proposed that those in poverty should have better access to quality education in order for them to gain the tools and knowledge they need to uplift themselves out of destitution.
One of the students mentioned the immense income disparity in Namibia, citing how in the capital city you can see large estates and drive ten minutes and walk through areas full of run-down shacks. She said that more needs to be done to promote equality and to eradicate poverty so that people can have access to their basic needs and to lessen the wealth gap.
After the fruitful discussion, the experts and students convened in the auditorium for the closing of the event. UNIC Windhoek was inspired by DHPS’ students and their desire to learn and bring about change in Namibia.