Father’s Day in Africa and the Roles of Fathers in Children’s Lives

As we celebrate the Father’s Day on 18 June,  we all must be mindful that being a father does not necessarily transcend into a good dad. It could take a second to become a father, but definitely, more serious commitment and sacrifices to be a real dad. Unfortunately, the naked reality around the world, especially in Africa, rings alarm bells. Most people are in fact just a father. Not a dad.

Many fathers have succeeded in bringing innocent and vulnerable kids into the world unprepared or unwilling for the challenges that come with it. They fail to take good care of the children. In most cases, these “abandoned” children are often left with their mothers to take care of. Yet the few fathers, who show interest in their children, more often than not, wrongly believe that providing financial security for the children is just enough. Definitely not. Your child needs much more than that. Your physical presence and personal contact with your children are in fact, undeniable elements children need from their fathers – especially at the early stage of their childhood. To be able to thrive and develop happily, children desperately need nutritious food, unhindered attention, love and protection of their fathers, amongst others. Clearly, early learning activities – especially when the children are between three and four years old – with their fathers, such as the father playing with the children, taking them out for a walk, drawing and counting with them, reading to them, singing to them or telling them stories  can effectively have a major positive impact on the lives of the children. Numerous research has shown that most children who lacked the attention of their fathers often end up being victims of social, psychological and health problems such as lack of good health, inability to tackle challenges and stress, and even poor performance in school. From the lack of self-confidence to other negative psychological challenges, talk less easy exposure to crime, violence and other juvenile delinquencies, no one can doubt the importance and long-term benefits of the positive interaction between fathers and children.

Globally, more than 40 million children between the age of three- and four-years-old have fathers who do not play any part in their upbringing, especially in early learning activities, according to the latest United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) research. While this figure is alarming, cultural sensibilities, for example in Africa, play a major role towards the worrisome statistics. In many African cultures, children are expected to belong to the domain of their mothers; just like women are believed to be “directors” in the kitchen. These cultural roles virtually reduce women to sex objects and potential mothers. The present socio-political and economic realities on the ground, often come with added challenges for mothers. Ironically, children are left to the care of their mothers, yet they are expected – especially the males – to grow up a man. The present African society is such, where women are undeniable potential economic contributors in the family. Most of them are not only highly educated, they have challenging jobs. How can one expect them to effectively discharge their jobs at the same time take good care of the children without the full support of their male partners? This becomes a problem for many women to balance the two challenges.

In view of the obvious proved advantages and benefits of personal contact and interaction of fathers in the childhood development of children, and our present economic, political and social realities which have come with more challenges and responsibilities for women, no doubt, fathers are more than before, needed in the lives of their children. This involvement would definitely change the vulnerable lives of the innocent children for good. If you call yourself a good dad and see yourself different from every other father, this is the right time to show the much-needed commitment in the lives of your children.

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