Children in the African traditional family

In African tradition, the chief purpose for most people in marriage was procreation and failure to have children led to psychological and economic problems so the following express the importance of children.

Children ensured the survival of community. Through marriage and sex life is handed over to another generation.

Confirmation of marriages, in some tribes without children part of the dowry is returned (bagisu) and in Langi separation was called for.

Due to intertribal wars boys were preferred for security in warriors tribes like the Acholi.                                                                                                                   

Children ensured decent burial and performance necessary rituals during the burial.                                                                                                                                                                        

Children took care of graves by clearing bushes and gave libation (food and drink) to the dead relatives.                                                                                     

They ensured that marriages remained intact i.e. husband and wife stayed together because of children.

Girl children were preferred as source of income inform of dowry e.g. in Teso where they paid about or above 50 heads of cattle.

Through children the family name is preserved through naming.

Children enabled parents to work harder in order to prepare what they are to inherit.                                                                                                                               

In some societies moving from one ladder to another depended on rites of passages ones children had passed through; that is why grandparents are more respected e.g. Akamba society.

In West Africa (umuofia society) one was expected to rise by use of titles to become a man and if not one remains without title (Ogbala an equivalent of a woman) was given.

Children were the major source of labour in gardens and at home; collecting firewood, locking after animals, crafts etc.

Children consoled the parents in case of any catastrophe.

Children were to be caretakers of old age and ensured decent living, insurance for parents.

In case of isolation of the women, children consoled her or guarded her from cruelty of husband.

The more children one had the more status. Prestige and responsible compared with one who had few or none.

In case of death of parent; elder children take care of young ones and widows.

Relationship between parents and children in the traditional African

The relationship between parents and children in traditional African family were as follows:-    

It was a close relationship i.e. there was no gap between them.

The father is the head of the family deputized by the mother so all children must give respect to parents and all elders.

The children received tender care from parents. They sealed marriages between their parents.

The life of the parents was prolonged through their children.

 The status of parents depended on children and visa-vis in society.                   

Children took care of the elderly, blind etc.

Parents were source of knowledge (informal education) to their children.

Ethics and justice was in the hands of elders where the elders were always right;                                                                                                

Guidance and counseling was done by parents in correcting into basic ways of life. Parents showed exemplary behaviour to their children.

Boys were important than girls for defence and for inheriting family responsibility.                                                  

Parents teach sex roles and prepare them for womanhood / manhood. 

Parents are spiritual guides in religious affairs.

Parents are custodians of social norms and cultural values to children whereby at fire places parents give stories and experiences.

Parents are law enforcement officials.

Parents are responsible for getting marriage partners for children because they know what is good. The baganda say that 'Eliso Iyo mukulu awadugala wewalaba,' i.e. the dark part of the eye sees best to express their knowledge calling for children to hid to their instruction.

Parents were expected to love theirchildren.                                                           

Parents were expected to discipline their children when need arose. 

Children symbolized the presence of ancestors through remaining.

Children are loved conditionally.

b) To what extent has this relationship been improved or interfered with?

The relationship has been improved to a greater extent by Christian teaching as notedbelow:                                                                                                                                                                                   Christianity emphasizes a close relationship between parents and their children.

Children's obedience to parents is a way of fulfilling God's commandments (Eph 6: 1- 3).                                                                          

Parents are supposed to discipline their children but do not lead them to resentment (Eph 6:4-6).

In Christian teaching parents are not only source of knowledge but also godly instruction (Eph 6:4b).

Both boys and girls are important should be brought up without fear but out of love.                                                                                                                                                       

Children get care from their parents and are loved unconditionally.

Parents are examples to their children not as an obligation but as God's will.

The idea of parents being respected and the father as the head of the family is in line. Parents need to teach children, offer guidance and counseling just as the church leaders are supposed to.

Parents should love their children and share ideas together.                                                   

Children are expected to care for the elderly.

However, Christian teaching has interfered in the following ways:-

Condemned some cultures such as a father having sex with daughter in law (Bakiga).

Marriage is sealed with or without children

Christianity emphasizes individual choice of marriage partners.

Parents do not look at children as a means through which they can live eternally.

Christianity does not value the idea of renaming children after the dead but saints.

Parents do not need to look at children as source of income; one can pay dowry if he can.

Justice is in the hands of God not elders.

The gospel makes parents and children to be equal in the sight of God i.e. are judged equally.

Children can condemn evils of parents.

Spiritual guidance is done by Christian leaders than parents.                    

Challenges of single parenthood

Single parenthood is a situation where only one parent takes care of children or nurturing of children without assistance of the other spouse. Single parenthood can be as a result of divorce, due to death of partner, or choice to be single.


Children lack complete parental care and love.                                                              

Problem of explaining to the children who the father/mother is and where he/she is.                                                                                                                          

There is social stigma which can lead the parents to be psychologically affected.                                               

In case of a single mother she will have no respect from the public and is labeled ‘loose,' failure.                                                          

Children face the problem of identity and acceptance when parents get married to different partners.                                                                                

Disciplining children single handed is hectic and the situation can be out of control.   

There is a problem of provision of basic needs of life like food, clothing, and fees.                                                          

Morally, a single father might not find it easy talking to the daughter about sex education likewise the mother to the sons.

Inheritance of property by children of a single parent is difficult especially from different women or men.                

In case of widows they face the problem of interference from the late man's relatives.

Some of her friends may give her ruining advice.                             

Some men do not want to look after step children or vis-avis.                    

It can lead to prostitution due to loneliness.                           

Children can grow up hating marriage.                         

Incest and defilement may take place.                                                                

Children are despised and are called bastards (kiryandano - bakiga).

If the mother has had many relationships, she may fail to know the real father.                                                

Children can be disowned by another parent                                                                         

Some men defile their own daughters.                                                                             

(b) What Christian advice can you give to single parents?

It possible such people should marry to avoid embarrassment.                                 

Legal marriage relationship can help in solving those problems.                

In marriage the parent can enjoy companionship of the other partner.    

Single parents can also marry other single parents so that they share the responsibility.                                                                                                     

Each should endeavor to get partners who are ready to accept the children.                                                                                                                                             

They should pray to God for assistance.                                                                                     

If they had divorced / separated there is need to reconcile.                                       

They should join Christian organisations for spiritual nourishment e.g. legion of Mary, YMCA, and YWCA.                                                                                                 

They should try to work hard to survive.                                                                

St Paul advises widows/widowers to remain single for the sake of the kingdom but if they cannot control themselves they should marry.                   

Sometimes marrying a different person can bring more problems so one can remain have self control (abstain).                                                                                          

They should try to live exemplary lives with good spiritual stand.                        

They should trust God for providence.                                                                             

They should endeavor to discipline children to avoid embarrassment.     

To avoid temptations/problems they should go to church leaders for counseling.                                   

In case they have relatives who are of exemplary life they should entrust children to them for shaping children's behaviour.

Role of parents and the school in the education of children

In traditional African society the responsibility for teaching the young how to prepare for adult life was done by parents and other family members in addition to trusted members of the community. Responsibility was taught to enable one support oneself and other members of community. Education was informal but has definite aims as noted below:-

Cultural norm; including beliefs and practices different skills were    taught depending on sex, age to develop to manhood /womanhood.

Courage, self discipline, discretion and loyalty as well as knowing how to carry out work expected of a young man / woman who has accepted the    duty of marriage.                                                                                             

Personal hygiene and how to tame environment.                                                         

Both young men and women were thoroughly instructed in the moral codes and religious beliefs of community and expected to conform to them.                                                                                                                                                             

The education covered social, religious, personal, intellectual, cuItural and economic aspects.

The introduction of western type of education caused tremendous changes in family and community life; schools took over some of the responsibilities in education of the children causing the following:-

Many parents feel the school has taken up total responsibility for developing character, moral values, religious as well as skills.

Parents think that after getting school fees, clothes, place to sleep, and any other requirements, it is the end of their role.                                                         

The school has total educational responsibility of children but this is shared with family.

However, facts that need to be addressed by both school and family as noted below:-

There is need for education on reproductive / sexual behaviour depending on age groups.

Because of lack of traditional values children of Christian parents often grow to reject the beliefs and practice of their parents (especially religious leaders).                                             

There is need to educate children on manual work which schools do not off.                                                                                                          

Responsibility can be taught by both parties.                                                                           

Because of failure of parents' responsibility children end up with bad habits learnt from peer groups such as rape, drunkenness, smoking, other forms of sexual abuse, vandalism all caused by lack of parental guidance.