What you need to know:
- Raising a child is an emotionally and physically demanding job; having someone to share the burden is a welcome idea for anyone doing it alone.
- A friend shared a distressing incident where her daughter returned home in tears because her teacher instructed the class to "do homework with your dad and mum".
In a world where two-parent families are becoming increasingly scarce, it's time for schools to reflect this societal shift.
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his 2019 Madaraka Day celebrations speech, highlighted the significant increase in single-parent households, particularly the rise in single mothers from 25.1 per cent in 2009 to 38.2 per cent in 2019, according to census results. If this trend persists, we can expect an even higher percentage in the next census.
Raising a child is an emotionally and physically demanding job, and having someone to share the burden is a welcome idea for anyone doing it alone. However, the reality is that sometimes it's the relationship between the parents itself that becomes emotionally and physically taxing.
Marriages crumble, torn apart by gender-based violence, or disrupted by the loss of a partner and other reasons. Some individuals consciously choose to go it alone, while others shirk their responsibilities. Furthermore, some children are born to teenage mothers or to mothers who are still children themselves. Challenges such as lack of access to contraceptives compound these issues.
Some researchers argue that as women gain economic empowerment, it becomes increasingly challenging for men to meet traditional provider roles, leading some to abandon their responsibilities.
Now, let's address the core issue – our classrooms. Recently, a friend shared a distressing incident where her daughter returned home in tears because her teacher instructed the class to "do homework with your dad and mum". This simple statement triggered her trauma of growing up without a father.
While consoling her daughter, my friend emphasized that there was no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed of her family structure, as families come in various shapes and sizes. She cited examples of prominent individuals like Barack Obama who thrived despite growing up in single-parent households. The girl eventually calmed down but continued to include an imaginary father in all her artwork to conform to the conventional notion of a family drummed into her head by her teachers and peers.
Reflecting on this incident, we realised that the teacher was a product of an educational curriculum confined to the traditional definition of a family, lacking the flexibility to explore the diversity of 21st Century households. When the topic arises, typically found under "Types of families," it tends to be brushed over, missing the opportunity to enlighten students about the different family possibilities and not portraying single-parent families as abnormal, whether intentionally or not.
It is our responsibility to equip our children with age-appropriate knowledge about the reality of single-parent households, honoring their experiences. Teachers play a pivotal role in facilitating these discussions.
World Teachers Day was marked yesterday. Let us acknowledge the importance of educators in shaping our children's understanding of the world, including the diverse family structures that make up our society.
Miss Oneya comments on social and gender topics. @FaithOneya; [email protected]