The difference between us and them

It’s been 2.5 weeks since I arrived into Namibia and although my research began with a slow start, I’m now finally getting into the swing of things.  I’ve been busy interviewing people from the government, lecturers at the agricultural college and farmers across the country.  I’ve also finalised details for the farm that I’ll be living on and I move in tomorrow – yay!  I get my very own cottage to myself, complete with vegetable garden and citrus trees.  More pics will follow, undoubtedly!
Apartments for  trophy hunters at the farm I'll be staying at
 

After my initial worries about finding it hard to interview farmers over here, I’ve decided that actually most people are only too willing to help.  I’ve been offered farms to stay on for a week to learn more about their livestock, hunting lodges to visit to talk about trophy hunting and have been invited to Farmers Associations to talk with the local community.  I’m so glad and thankful that it seems for the most part that everyone here is interested in my work and doesn’t mind me bothering them for half an hour or so to listen to their thoughts.  I just hope my luck continues!
Huge locust in the back garden
Something that I have noticed whilst living in southern Africa but is become more and more apparent whilst staying in town and interacting with locals is that the divide between the rich and the poor here is unbelievable.  Apparently Namibia has the highest unemployment rates in the whole world (more than 50%) and it officially has the most unequal income distribution of any country too.  The average monthly salary is US $100, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have a job.  Plus, domestic workers such as gardeners and maids don’t even have a minimum wage, so are basically paid a pittance to work for the rich.  I’ve heard the argument that if the minimum wage was to be installed that most people would get rid of their workers, so it helps them to not have a minimum wage because at least they’re employed and getting paid.  However, from what I understand, these people are earning so little money that it keeps them in poverty – they have to work to feed their families but they can’t progress to earn more because they don’t have the financial backing to do that.  Many of these people live in metal shacks the size of your bathroom, with as many as 6-8 people crammed inside.  They don’t have the money to pay to go to the private schools so are forced into the less-than-mediocre state schools.  This means that the children don’t have the same opportunities as the wealthy and are therefore destined to become farm or house workers too, just like their parents.  They don’t have the savings to go to a private hospital, so have to use the state facilities, which I’ve heard can make you more sick just by being there!  They work long, long hours for little pay, whilst their employers get the benefit of having someone work for them for what to them is almost free, knowing that their employees have no other choice but to accept the degrading salary.
Clapped out old bus

And what’s worse is I hear that in mixed race schools, the whites and the blacks are taught in separate classrooms, so there is no integration.  Although this country is not in apartheid any more, there are many, many more wounds to heal still.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Niki - so interesting...so sad for the Namibians that are subject to such a hard life. But they probably do not complain like back in north america where the unions fight for salary increases and strikes are a free for all.
    Where is the balance??

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