By Grace Alone
A pensioner is doing her best to educate children in an informal settlement in Okahandja.
23 June 2019 | Social Issues
“I’ll look after kids until the day I die,” says Rosina Gertze (64) of the Genade kindergarten in Okahandja’s informal settlement.
She says she was born in Gibeon and together with her grandmother’s sister, moved to Grootfontein when she was five. “I had my first baby at 21. My parents were very strict. It wasn’t like today when girls as young as 15 often already have babies,” she says.
Because her husband was a policeman, they were transferred often and lived in Omaruru, Arandis and Windhoek. “But my husband was killed in 1981 and then I moved back to my parents in Mariental,” she says.
There she was a domestic worker until she and her parents moved to the Five Rand informal settlement on the outskirts of Okahandja, before moving to Okakarara. It was here, in 1990, that she first had to do with children in a kindergarten. After living in Swakopmund for a few years, Gertze moved to Okahandja where she cared for the aged.
“Someone I know then asked me to help out at a kindergarten. Eight years ago I helped at the Shipena preschool for a year before I started Genade from my home in 2013,” she says.
“If you just sit around, you’ll get sick. You have to stay busy, and the children do just that!”
Having started with 23 kids back then, she now takes care of 20 children.
Gertze completed two courses in early childhood development through the Council of Churches. “The courses were in English, and it wasn’t easy. But now I can say that I completed both successfully and I have the certificates to prove it,” she says proudly. “I teach the children in English because it’s what they need to be able to speak when they go to school.”
She says she charges N$100 per child per month. “But many of the parents don’t have money and I can’t have the children out on the streets. So even if the parents can’t pay, the kids still come to me. Many of them get here with an empty stomach. Then I make oats or fat cake, because a hungry child can’t focus,” she says.
Gertze adds that the situation is dire and parents suffer. As a result she is thankful for everything she gets. “Some parents give me a pack of meat a month, which is also OK,” she says.
“I didn’t start Genade to make money. I started it to get children off the street, to teach them something, and if I have enough, to fill their stomachs.”
With her own money she was able to build a classroom where the kids sit on blankets on the floor and where they learn. They also take naps here.
“If there is one piece of advice I can give young people, it is to not leave school and to study hard. We are busy getting old. You are the future and will have to take over one day.”