- The noise came from one of the tenants’ room where a man and a woman were arguing loudly. The woman, it seemed was crying. There was also a crying baby in the room, probably terrified by the adults’ fight.
- “He has been avoiding me for a long time. He neither takes care of me nor the baby,” the girl told us when we inquired to know what was going on. That time, all the tenants had woken up and were all gathered in the corridor.
In the middle of the night on 20th March, we were awakened by noise from one of the rooms at the house where my friend lives. That day, I had decided to spend the night at my friend’s place in Tandika.
The noise came from one of the tenants’ room where a man and a woman were arguing loudly. The woman, it seemed was crying. There was also a crying baby in the room, probably terrified by the adults’ fight.
“He has been avoiding me for a long time. He neither takes care of me nor the baby,” the girl told us when we inquired to know what was going on. That time, all the tenants had woken up and were all gathered in the corridor.
Wiping tears from her cheeks, the girl in her 20s said almost a year had passed since the father of the child, who is a tenant at the house provided her with money for their child’s upkeep.
“The baby has asthma. His condition has been deteriorating by the day and he (the father) knows this. He has not been answering the phone for almost a month now. Sometimes he lets his girlfriends pick the phone,” said the girl angrily.
“I don’t send her money because she is a liar. She uses the baby as her investment,” said the young man also in his 20s in response to his estranged girlfriend’s accusations.
His child’s mother had decided to come at his place late in the night because it was the only time she was sure of getting hold of him.
“I knew I would find him home at this time,” explained the young mother when the landlady inquired to know why she had not come in the morning.
The baby was vividly sick and the mother had brought him to his father so he could take him to hospital. After a long discussion it was agreed that the two take the child to hospital.
I found out the following morning that the estranged couple had been livng together for a year before they were blessed with a baby boy. They later went separate ways after which the girl went back to her parents’ house.
The boy is now seeing another girl. He had deceived the mother of her child into going back to her parents’ house claiming some relatives would be visiting and so he wanted her to make room for them.
In recent years, many young people have been becoming parents in their teens which has seen a rise in abandonment cases. Young men have been at the centre of such conflicts given that most avoid responsibility.
Unlike most young fathers here, studies elsewhere indicate that young fathers are often engaged in their children’s lives even if they do not live together with the mothers of their children.
A study titled “Family Ties and Young Fathers’ Engagement in Cape Town, South Africa’’ published in National Centre for Biotechnology Information in 2015 shows that although only 26 per cent of young fathers live with their children, 66 per cent of nonresidential fathers maintain regular contact, and 61 per cent provide financial support.
Telma Dhaje is a senior counselor and supervisor of the National Child Helpline at C-Sema, an advocacy organisation that responds to calls from children in need of care and protection for help.
Dhaje says the problem with young fathers here is caused by the fact that many young people are rushing into having children while they are not prepared for the responsibilities that come with parenthood.
She says the number of girls using the helpline for support is overwhelming.
“But age is not a problem,” says Dhaje blaming it all on the upbringing, especially that of boys.
Dhaje says boys are brought up believing that girls are the ones supposed to take care of the family. Girls also are trained from an early age to be family care takers.
“Boys are not trained to take care of families so when a boy impregnates a woman, they tend to run away from responsibilities,” says Dhaje.
She says that kind of upbringing should target both boys and girls equally.
Dhaje has it that boys should also be taught about the responsibilities of a father because at times some enter into matrimony ignorant of their responsibilities.
“We see young men who are happy and proud to be fathers but are unaware of the responsibilities that fatherhood comes with,” Dhaje says.
Dr Josephine Tesha, a psychologist and an independent consultant on wellness and growth concurs with Dhaje. She says most families believe their sons are old enough to take care of themselves once they graduate, obtain a job and probably buy a car and build a house.
She says at this level, families ignore the fact that their sons still need guidance and this is where problems start.
“Families tend to assume their sons are grown and that they will take care of themselves,” says Dr Tesha adding that unless parents whose sons put girls in the family way early keep close contact, conflicts with their co-parents will be inevitable.
On why most young fathers avoid responsibility, Dr Tesha says; “Most of today’s young people are confused. They are exposed to so many things which they admire while they cannot afford to get them hence they get overwhelmed.”
Dr Tesha says problems happen because most young fathers are usually in denial having become fathers prematurely. They don’t easily accept the fact that they are now fathers and tend to continue living the kind of lifestyle they were living before they became fathers and end up in problems.
“If this trend continues, we will be building a problematic generation,” says Dr Tesha.
Mr Abdallah Seleman, 70, a Kimara resident got married when he was only 17 years old. He says despite marrying at such a young age, he was ready and knew exactly what responsibilities awaited him as a married man. He does not understand it when a man denies responsibility after fathering a child. To him, age should not be an excuse.
“Since I got married in 1970 I have never failed to take care of my family,” says the father of seven who is married to two wives.
Mr Seleman thinks the reason most young people fail to take care of their families is because of lack of discipline and unpreparedness.
“It’s true that I married at a young age but I was disciplined and my parents who wanted me to have a wife at that time ensured they made it possible for me to raise my family through guidance. They gave me all the support,” says Mr Seleman. He believes most of the young men who have children or live with girls do so without their parents’ knowledge, will and approval. The young man who had a fight on the night of March 20 proves so.
“I had not planned to have a baby. It happened by accident. I don’t have the courage to face my parents about it,” said the young man who earns a living through gaming business.
The mother of his child confirms this saying she does not know any of his relatives. Neither does she know his parents’ home.
“He never introduced me to any of his relatives. No matter how hard I tried to convince him to take me to his parents house, he would always promise to take me there but never did,” says the girl.
Dhaje advises that for young fathers to be responsible, they should only have babies when they are ready. And if it happens accidentally, they should be ready to behave like fathers.
“You must accept the fact that you are now a father and know that the new born baby depends on you for upkeep,” she says.
Dhaje says most young women lack the confidence to stand up for their rights when things go wrong and that some don’t seek justice when abandoned because they do not know where to go for help.
“Lack of awareness on the presence of social welfare officers prevents them from seeking help. Those who are aware do not trust social welfare officers. Most of them report to the police instead of reporting to the social welfare offices,” she says.
She thinks young girls need sensitisation on this in a bid to avert problems.
On her part, Dr Tesha insists on the importance of parents educating their sons about parenthood responsibilities. She says; “Parents are supposed to lay a good foundation for their sons. They should prepare them for fatherhood and how to be responsible parents,” she advises.