A parent’s commitment, attitude and caring love for a child are all very important factors in childhood development. Even more so for the first three years as this stage is when the child learns to crawl, walk, talk, reason and experience love.
Traditionally, this role has fallen mostly on mothers. But, in many instances, very young or much older men, simply move on as soon as they are done proving their virility. They don’t pay labola (as some traditions require), because they have no interest in marrying the woman who is carrying his offspring.
Many of these “virile” men disappear, moving on to the next girlfriend. Only to impregnate her as well and start another cycle of a child brought up in a one-parent-household. And usually without any intention of providing financial support or exercising his right of access to his children.
Often, single mothers end up with two, three or four children – all from different fathers – to take care of. And all of the fathers shine in their absence.
In many instances, some of these children are sent to their grandparents, who live in rural areas most of the time, and who might not be equipped to prepare a young child for the highly competitive and technologically advanced world that awaits them in the future.
The traditional role of father (helping to support and raise his children), seems to be ignored. To say that it is part of your culture (to abandon a woman who is pregnant with your child), is not a get out of jail free card when it comes to your responsibility.
Tradition is a dynamic thing, it can change. So can culture (which is a growing educational process). And it is necessary to adapt to change.
For instance, there are certain health regulations in place, which means that it is no longer acceptable to slaughter an animal in your yard as it has negative health implications. To use culture as an excuse is simply not good enough. The laws that forbid these actions are not discriminating, they are simply there to ensure the good health of the public (avoid the spread of disease etc.) – even more so in areas that are densely populated.
With no father-role model (or secondary parent-figure) to relate to, many children struggle adjusting to life in the adult world. Basic life lessons and values are often lacking; without these basics it is very difficult to stand on your own feet and make a decent living.
Unless traditional values are adapted to embrace the current situation, culture alone will not satisfy the requirements demanded for survival of the earth dwellers. Because of this, there is no answer to poverty unless a third party gets involved. Taxpayer’s contributions cannot be the only source filling this void.
With so much corruption draining the government’s coffers, the challenge to lift people from inhumane living conditions, becomes an impossible goal. Welfare allowances don’t do much in rectifying the situation.
Instead of welfare, perhaps government should consider giving allowances to help the Small to Medium Business sector to train these people. By creating work and transferring skills, you might eradicate poverty.
On a positive note, Kumba demonstrated its commitment to education development with the opening of Thaba Tots Early Childhood Development Centre in Thabazimbi. Kumba heeded to government’s call for corporate participation in socio-economic development and in conjunction with provincial and local government. With the opening of Thaba Tots the dream became a reality.
This partnership was formed with the understanding that meaningful interventions are required to maximise the development potential of young children. This is why access to ECD has become a national priority for government and needs to be increased.
One can only hope that input was not again one sided, but will reflect both parent’s (father and mother) involvement in this big contribution to the community. However, there is an obligation for the parents to commit themselves to their children’s future at home through means of responsible and positive parenting.
Comment by Pieter Coetzee – Editor