We get to celebrate Fathers’ Day and Youth Day on the same day this year. Future Nation Schools congratulates and celebrates those fathers who play their rightful and meaningful roles in the upbringing of their children.
South Africa has a major problem as more than 60% of our children grow up with absent fathers according to StatsSA. The problem of absent fathers contributes significantly to the social problems which we experience in our South African society. The absence of fathers negatively affects the emotional development, the overall wellbeing, and the growth of our children.
Fathers who are present in the lives of their children have a positive contribution towards better social skills, better academic achievement, more confidence, better relationships with the opposite sex, and feelings of self-worth in their children. Boys are more likely to emulate their fathers in terms of positive behaviour if the fathers are present.
South Africa also has many men who play the role of fathers in the lives of children who are not their biological children. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. We must celebrate these men who play the role of substitute fathers.
As we live in the 21st century, we need to redefine the role of men and fathers. No longer can we continue to define what it means to be a real man to being: the provider, physically, economically, educationally strong – men as the ultimate decision-makers. We live in a world in which women must be treated as equal but different. After all, 60% of South African university students are women. A growing percentage of young women earn more than young men. Whilst we need to celebrate the success of women in achieving success in education, we have to worry equally, why, in a population of 58 million people in which 51% are women, men account for only 40% of university students. As a society, we have to worry equally that the progression of women academically has not translated into women enjoying equal representation in leadership and senior positions in business, academia and government.
As older men, we need to welcome and bring up our children in a truly gender-equal society. As men, we have to fight toxic masculinity and patriarchy alongside those women who fight these scourges.
As the statistics of university enrolment show an increase in the numbers of women who are enrolled as students, increasingly it appears that for various reasons men are discouraged to perform better academically. We have also observed that women read more widely than men. A large number of men and boys find it less macho to read books for leisure. There are very few men who are members of book clubs which have grown significantly especially amongst the black population in South Africa. Reading books for leisure must be made cool for more boys and men too.
As a society, we need to be more supportive of men who pursue interests or careers such as pre-school practitioners, primary school teaching, nursing and social work. Just as we need to encourage more girls to take up science, technology, and mathematics, we need to encourage boys equally to pursue and embrace social sciences and humanities careers. Men and women must be responsible for fixing social problems after all. We cannot leave the task of fixing social problems to women only.
At Future Nation Schools, we are creating an environment in which both boys and girls can realise their full potential. We set high academic expectations for both boys and girls. We are redefining women’s roles alongside men’s. For the sake of our future and to reduce our social problems in South Africa, we have to redefine what positive masculinity means.
Happy Fathers’ Day and Happy Youth Day