The Sunday Mail
As communities modernise and change their lifestyles, there has been a disintegration of extended families into nuclear families, with people mostly focusing on their biological children.
Back in the day, communities were tied by blood, marriage and totems.
There was no orphan in society, siblings and relatives, even distant ones, played a pivotal role in bridging the gap after the death of a parent. But how did we abandon such a comfortable set-up?
Recently, First Lady Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa expressed concern over the escalating numbers of children in foster homes and implored traditional leaders to help in the restoration of Zimbabwe’s moral fabric. She urged traditional leaders to lead in inculcating cultural values that promote the development of the family unit.
Living Waters Theological Seminary Bulawayo lecturer, Dr Clever Gomba, also said the breakdown of the extended family has escalated the numbers of children in foster homes and orphanages and as well numbers of the elderly in old people’s homes.
“The impact of the liquidity crunch that has slowed the economy should not be understated as it has resulted in the idea of each man for himself and God for us all,” he said.
“Back in the day, agricultural communities could sustain families through subsistence farming.
“Africans operated under the ubuntu worldview where a communal approach to social and family issues was the basis of any individual behaviour but due to the villagisation of the world, people are no longer static and culture is increasingly changing, hence some traditional values are falling away along the way,” said Dr Gomba.
“In contemporary society, new constructions are inevitable and in some set-ups, people are made to believe that extended family is an impediment to development,” he added.
But University of Johannesburg post-doctoral researcher, Dr John Ringson believes that families have not disintegrated. Instead, he argues society has been exposed to poverty due to climate change, thereby leading to a change in lifestyle.
“The extended family support system still exists despite the socio-economic dynamics that have shifted our societies from its indigenous originality to modernity. Despite the overwhelming impediments, the extended family still remains the most accessible and reliable orphans’ care and support system within the rural communities,” he said.
Child nurturing in the traditional communities was communal, a child belonged to the community or the whole family, and not just his or her own biological parents.
It appears that people are now fearing the burden of support because of lack of resources to take care of a huge family and to avert this burden, they would rather send them (relatives) to orphanages and homes. In 2016, the National Aids Council indicated that there were approximately 5,6 million children in Zimbabwe, of which 1,3 million were orphans.
It was further reported that 5 431 of these children had by then been absorbed in orphanages and homes. On the other hand, 270 901 elders were in old people’s homes.