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THE PARENTAL CONTRIBUTION

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Government has felt it right to compromise on the issue of parental consent forms aimed at avoiding a repetition of the rioting and damage carried out in schools by pupils during recent weeks.

And it isn’t an easy issue. Government is clearly committed to providing the best education possible for the children of the country. But the serious damage to children being out of school, and the amount of material damage done while at school, has presented two mutually exclusive scenarios and muddied the waters for decision-making by the authorities. A careful investigation should identify the motives of the pupils.

Grievances

There are, in the meantime, numerous voiced grievances, ranging from the two incarcerated MPs, to sexual abuse and school meals. We don’t know how much was genuine concern for key issues, or a juvenile expression of unhappiness, perhaps even motivated by outside influences. Not everyone wants a peaceful solution to the current troubles. And the youth are vulnerable; thousands are orphans. Don’t forget the personal challenges presented to our youngsters from the loss of parents through HIV and AIDS, and single parenting through non-exogenous factors. Tying in the parents through signed commitments, and the over 18-year-olds similarly, is barely a solution.

The extent of the complaints, and of declared refusal to sign the consent forms, has made the scheme almost impossible to launch. We should rely on application of the existing laws to deal with those who carry out illegal acts. Taking part in the damaging of schools is clearly breaking the law, and the perpetrators should be held accountable, as provided by the law. But watching such an incident passively should not be treated as also breaking the law. The only way to achieve effective parental oversight, and intervention of the kind intended, is through the continuum of active parenting throughout a child’s development. Even then, of course, there is no guarantee of success, especially in the modern era of social media and its distractions, good and bad. So allow me please to divert to a few thoughts on the subject.

Reflects

For most adults in the world, having children reflects a natural predisposition to giving birth. It keeps the population of the world going, though not necessarily growing. Parenting done properly is a time-consuming, patience-sapping and funds-depleting activity. And just as biology dictates that conception requires a male and female to participate in the process, so are both parents needed in the optimal upbringing of the child. But, sadly, that is so often missing.

In the days before the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s, married couples of the so-called First World – and most were married in those days – gave the husband a far more independent patriarchal role than today. Women’s Lib changed all that. In those countries, husbands started to help with the housework, sharing chores like the washing-up or cleaning the kitchen floor; even changing the baby’s diapers, bathing the kids and reading them bedtime stories; unashamedly and without any feeling of emasculation. Ready DNA analysis now ensures all males are accountable for their part in procreation. Many males in many parts of the world may quiver at the prospect but that’s the way society is moving. And it’s a good way.

What is initially surprising, though on reflection less so, is that an alarmingly high number of men and women have informed surveys that having children did not seem to bring happiness. Instead it removed semi-permanently such pleasures as freedom, financial security and minimal stress. But all, bar none, would be devastated if anything serious happened to those children.

Happiness

So allow me to suggest that there’s more to it than the obvious characteristics of happiness. There is something deeper, having to do with love, meaning, purpose and fulfillment. Those same parents do admit that their lives have more significance than if they had been without children. There’s joy as well as pain. And you are giving a life. People who say you should think twice about bringing a child into this dysfunctional world should remember that it is still a beautiful world.
Accepting responsibility is a key factor in producing responsible children. In every society, each parent should look self-critically at the quality of guidance and protection given to minors. What you put in largely determines what you get out. That’s a template for the future.

Regarding Eswatini society in the current context, we are dealing with the teenagers of today, the output of years of parenting or non-parenting. The fastest route to harmony now is to ensure those teenagers are respected stakeholders in the coming national dialogue process; and are made aware of that today. Then we can have the pupils back, learning safely. Any damage to schools, in this current climate of commitment to the imminent national dialogue forum, would then invalidate the integrity and sincerity of the grievances voiced.

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