Village abandons its role of child-upbringing

01st September 2016
The Fireplace


By Matshediso Fologang -

A child belonged to all the adults in the community. The whole adult population had a significant role in the raising of children within their clan. The children were raised by the whole village and therefore to every child every adult person was a parent. Does the village still raise the child?

As I grew up in the late 50s and 1960s I was never able to differentiate exactly who my real parents were. As was the practice then, the nucleus family, the extended family and the clan - effectively the whole village - was involved in my upbringing. As it was then, the whole process started once the would-be mother fell pregnant.

Everybody who became aware of her status was expected to provide some kind of assistance to the expectant mother so that no danger befell the unborn child. Even sharing the expected day of delivery was taboo lest some evil spirits were cast over the unborn child. The whole exercise was part of the active involvement of the village in raising a child.

In a typical Setswana set-up every child was born within a bigger and wider support network of maternal relatives with the uncles (bo-malome) jointly with the aunts and their children involved in providing the basic support even to the unborn child.

The pregnant mother to be would be taken care of in a manner that would provide a basis for the next stage of confinement (botsetsi). The family and its extended members had the responsibility to even assist in catering for the mother and indirectly for the child. The whole family assisted in raising the child. The paternal family was expected to also be actively involved in the raising of the child and to provide a home and kgotla relationship for their child.

The two families were expected to determine the name of the child and at a point where the mother came out of confinement, the child was taken to the grandparent’s home where the child would be given a name. The name had to be associated with the being of the clan… Names like Omphitletse, Kenosi, Mosalagae, Matshediso, Kgotla, Modise Dipuo etc were not meant for the nucleus family but could equally be applied to the entire family and/or clan. This was done in the early mornings around the fireplace in the presence of all the people in the kgotla/kgoro (ward).

The whole village would have the benefit of being shown the child and would all follow his or her growth until he/she was ready to go to bogwera or bojale. All parents were expected to mould this child into a behaved and respectful young adult who equally regarded every adult he/she met as his/her own parent. He/she could be admonished, punished and disciplined by any parent and could not take this as cruelty. This was part of helping bringing up a child. Is the village still involved in bringing up the child? I can without doubt state frankly that with the advent of globalisation, this critical role of raising the child by the village is no more. Even the botsetsi is no longer an activity involving even those in the immediate family cycle.

The whole process of raising the child has been confined to the family. Children in some instances do not even know their aunts or uncles or their cousins.
The parents want their parents not to be involved in the growth and upbringing of the grandchildren. The village doesn’t know its children to raise them. The village no longer raises the child.

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