By Maria Kandjungu
OVER 700 teens and youth silently listened as a 19-year-old *Saara Shunda an inmate from the Oluno Correctional facility shared her life story on how wrong choices and decisions made while in school led to her being behind bars years before her 20th birthday.
Shunda convicted of theft described her incarceration as a necessity that allowed her to change and see the mistake of her path.
Narrating her life story at the launch of First Lady Monica Geingos’ #BeFree campaign in Omusati region, Shunda recalled how she was talented academically and how has always been a risk taker.
According to her, the very characteristic which made her popular is what led her to be jailed. Experimentation with marijuana and eventually cocaine led to a life of misplaced priorities and consequently, theft which led her ending up behind bars.
The teen inmate spoke of how she recognised many of her peers in the audience, including her friend’s mother and like many inmates who are incarcerated young, she revealed the pain of watching her friends move on with their lives and continuing studying while she is in jail.
Shunda also indicated that her deepest regret is that she never listened when advised to change her life. The #BeFree Movement also held pre-event engagements with stakeholders, where rape, teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse of children, suicide and school dropouts were said to be some of the biggest problems facing the youth in the region.
It was noted that rape and child abuse rates in the region are high with the oldest rape victim being 95 and the youngest being three years old.
According to Aune Iiyambula, the Regional Education Counsellor in the Omusati region, child-headed households have become common in the region where cultural beliefs sometimes stand in the way of reporting rape and abuse cases.
A panel discussion took place with learners and professionals addressing the issues. Over the past years, Ohangwena region has been one of the top regions to record the highest pregnancy rates among school children.
This was one of the main challenges raised during the panel discussion.
Learners from 35 schools across the Omusati region, students from the UNAM Ogongo Campus and Nakayale Vocational Training Center (Outapi) were part of the 700 participants who attended the #BeFree Omusati regional launch at the Shaanika Nashilongo Secondary School in Okahao under the local slang “Tu kaBaze” or let’s chill that was selected by the learners as the theme for the day.
*Not her real name
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015