Fathers must step up

22 May 2019 | Columns

Our lead story of yesterday, which highlighted the shame of absent fathers, sparked heated debate on social media. Most of the commentators sympathised with single mothers who continue to carry the responsibilities of raising their children alone. According to statistics, nearly half of Namibian households are run by single mothers. In most instances the fathers of these children are not involved in their lives, while in some cases non-resident parents - be it a mother or father - are equally involved in parental work and responsibilities. However, the issue here are the heartless men who have simply walked away from their parental responsibilities, as James Itana of Regain Trust decried in a recent interview with Namibian Sun. “The sad reality is that for mothers who come from lower economic status, the burden to take care of children is immense, considering the fact that they do not have the economic means to do so,” he said. While it is expected that some parents are likely to have more sporadic or unpredictable time periods with their children, it should be noted that both parents have a legal duty to maintain the child or children. It cannot be left just to the father or mother of the child. The absence of either parent affects children in different ways throughout the course of their lives and we have seen cases where children engage in toxic behaviour, including dropping out of school, which impacts their future in a big way. Emotional and other problems also become perennial companions of neglected kids. Although many factors contribute to father absenteeism, men must understand their powerful role of being a daddy, without this being exclusively about money. Absent fathers need to take responsibility for the children they have abandoned, including providing time, affirmation or care. It is their legal duty to do so. And as the old adage says: Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.