Shaping the Future: Through the voices of African parents

Theme:
  • Skillful Parenting
Pages: 80
Year of Publication: 2009
Country: Africa

In the cobweb of social relations, the family assumes a central place as an agent of change. It is within the family that a child receives sustenance, is exposed to the notion of what is right and what is wrong, and learns what is acceptable and not acceptable in society. At the family level, a child is inculcated with work ethics, the concept of time, punctuality, the notion of excellence and how to do things right and in an acceptable and timely manner. It is here that various forms of socialisation including gender roles are defined.

The family has no substitute as the premier institution for socialisation, personal growth and development. It must therefore be provided with the support it deserves to fulfill this important function. Families must be equipped with good child rearing practices and principles that will enable them carry out their mandate of raising children to acceptable standards. The family should be made aware of existing child rights that are beneficial to the development of children such as; the right to an identity, the right to differing opinions and to voice them, the right to be treated with dignity, and the right to a life free from violence. This calls for extensive public education and information programmes aimed at bringing about behavioural change and enhancing the capacity of families to raise and care for their children. It is towards achieving this goal that The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and International Child Support (ICS) came up with this publication.

This publication documents real life stories of selected African parents, shedding light on the multifaceted challenges parents are faced with and the kind of support they need. Most of the available literature on parenting in Africa lack contextual relevance to most African parents. Therefore, we hope that the realities of the African parents shared in this book will contribute towards filling this gap, as their stories not only describe the challenges faced during child rearing and upbringing, but also highlight best parenting practices that are relevant to all African parents.

Listening to children and considering seriously what they have to say is an important
step in shaping their future. The family is the first institution within which children’s
world view is shaped, formed and indeed from where they gain the confidence
to venture into the external environment. It is crucial then that they become
participants in their upbringing so that their sense of responsibility has a place in
the socialisation process that moulds their character.
Generally, majority of parents, in the African context, make explicit decisions over
matters that concern their children. This most often results in children being timid
and unable to voice out their opinions on matters that concern them due to fear of
punishment. In most cases, however, this is done with the belief that parents know
best about what their children need. It is therefore difficult for the African child
to ask or question certain issues that they feel uncomfortable about in the family.
Most often, attempts to ask or express views on issues in the family can result to
reprimands or punishment as some children, in this book, point out.
Recognising that children have a right to express their views does not mean that
adults no longer have responsibilities towards children. On the contrary, children
cannot and should never be left alone to find their way or learn the lessons that
life has to offer, rather, it requires that we recognise the value of their own
experiences, views and concerns. The family, being the basic protective unit for
children therefore remains the most ideal set up for children to learn and have the
courage to express themselves. Knowing that their parents or caregivers regard
what they feel, what they experience or how they would like their lives to be,
contributes immensely to their sense of balance and responsibility.
This publication has given children across Africa a platform to talk about parenting
by expressing their real life stories of how they relate with their parents and
caregivers in their environments. It brings out the happy moments, the challenges
and struggles that they go through as they relate with the adults in their lives and
how the parenting styles and approaches have shaped them.
Undoubtedly, children’s views reflect a wide range of concerns and opinions and
in most cases recognise the struggles that parents and caregivers go through in
order to provide for their needs. This underscores even further the need to talk to
children, to let them know what is going on in the families, in their communities and
to have them contribute their opinions to critical decisions that affect their lives.
It is therefore our hope that these experiences will reawaken the urgent need to
involve children meaningfully in our families for it is the intent of every parent that
children grow to be responsible adults and reach their best possible potential.
Language: English
Published by: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) & ICS
Author: Parenting in Africa Network & African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
Located in: Publications
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Founder Assefa Bequele, PhD

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