Opinion: What Does The Future Hold For Child-headed Households?

Abantwana Babalulekile (Children Count) claim there has been little statistical analysis on child-headed families in South Africa. However with recent rise of mortality and indispositions in society such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, accidents, violence etc. child-headed families raises key issues to the national youth debate.

Research show that, child-headed households continue to produce an increase in distortion of family structures, further affecting the ‘adult child’ societal relations, well- being and developmental stages. 

An analysis of the General Household Survey in 2006 found 0.67% of children live in child-headed households; this is equivalent to roughly 122 000 children out of 18.2 million children in South Africa and only 8% are orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Further surveys indicate that, child parenting begins between the ages of 14 years and above. 

Consequently, they live in conditions that are on average worse than those in mixed-generation households. They are also less likely to live in formal dwellings, or have access to adequate sanitation and water. This is because most of them reside outside of cities. Therefore, unable to have access to quality services.

It is with great dismay that most child-headed households have a 6% family income, leaving the rest unemployed which in turn makes a rippled effect on the increasing crime levels, poverty and the number of uneducated youth to name amongst other issues.

Post 1994 studies have shown alarming figures that there is still a great imbalance and that they are more ‘black’ child-headed families in comparison to other races. Analysis indicates, the province with the most child-headed families is Limpopo. 

“Education starts at home” therefore, without the structure of formal education present in the household, it generates a gap and the possibility of a continuous cycle within the household. In order to assist in solving this problem it would be necessary to know, how is the child parent educating their siblings. Questions such as “Why are there more black child-headed families? Are these parents frequently involved in the life of their children? How are other parents from different races educating their children to ensure they do not become parents at a young age?” need to be answered.

Part of the National Development Plan is to promote active lifestyle and health awareness, which really needs to be carried out with more precision.  Also the current programmes being implemented in different communities need to be evaluated to identify if they are relevant and viable. I believe this phenomenon really needs to be taken more seriously by the state and the different stakeholders. The youth is the future of the country, and if these rates of ‘child-headed families’ continues to raise, this could entail higher unemployment rates, higher abortion rates, substance abuse, high number of illiteracy and many more problems. 

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