What does it take to raise a child?

You have heard it said:

It takes a village to raise a child

The radio announcers of our national broadcaster frequently treat us to that African “wisdom”. The idea of this is that every mama and auntie out there should be looking out for your child. Also, if they are not, then there’s trouble. There’s a problem though: who is responsible for the child? In “Ubuntu”, the individual is subservient to the group, and this proverb is an expression of that subservience. The responsibility of the parent to teach their own children proper values is blithely ceded to the group, the village. In this kind of thinking, it is fine for the father to disappear for years at a time while he works up cash in the big city, and it is fine for the mother to have children without a father, especially if there is a government grant. Except, it’s not fine.

This proverb is usually quoted when there is some abject case of neglect and abuse – the mother was working (the father being absent), and some wicked person did something unmentionable to the child (or children). The village should have done something to take care of the poor little children. Maybe it should have, but actually, the father and mother should have done something.

The logical extension of this, in a global village, is that it takes government help to raise a child. The government must supply medical help for the delivery, they must give the parents (and more often, the parent) a grant to ensure that the child has some food, they must build a school for the child, and when the child graduates from that school, they must provide tertiary training for that child, and then they must give that graduated tertiary person a government job, access to loans, freedom from being blacklisted for bad debt, and who knows what else. Not a word about the responsibility of the parents. The government accepts what people say about this stuff, and they make every effort to comply – this seems to be the kind of government people want!

The trouble is, the village and the government are not very good at a whole bunch of things, like:

  • Teaching children good values: the best they can do seems to be sex education – a bizarre after-the fact attempt at fixing a fundamental problem through window-dressing.
  • Teaching children discipline: putting children through the criminal “justice” system is laughable in terms of teaching any kind of discipline. It takes years, where what is usually required can be administered quickly and swiftly and not very often by a parent that is actually around.
  • Teaching children their place in the world: children do not seem to notice that they are in a social safety net while they are busy buying drugs and engaging in anti-social behaviour. Children that have their parents around tend to avoid things like this, because they will quickly incur their parents’ displeasure.  Even the worst parents are not prepared to put up with endless trouble from their children.

You have heard it said:

It takes a village to raise a child

But I tell you:

It takes a father and a mother to raise a child

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