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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Challenges of being a single mother

19th December 2012
There are times when children born out of wedlock demand to know, meet and in some cases, live with their fathers. File photo

A nine year old boy in standard three at one primary school in the 1970s was made a laughing stock and called names because he didn’t know his father’s name.

His mother had conceived while she was sixteen and still a primary school pupil and dropped out of school after discovering she was pregnant.

She was delivered of that boy at the age of seventeen. Her father fumed and yelled, but couldn’t do anything further; he had to cool down and raise his daughter and the grandson whom he later loved much and christened, Frank. The boy grew up knowing his father to be Gregory, which was his grandfather’s name.

Some of his classmates knew him as Gregory’s daughter’s son and that Gregory was his grandfather. In fact, those who knew him had heard obscene words being uttered against his mother, in connection with his birth, so the boy became an object of scorn to them; he wasn’t like them although he had so much longed to be like them.

We have many single mothers like Frank’s mother in our society, but they belong to several classes, according to the nature of their parenthood; some are divorced, others are widows, others are very much like Frank’s mother, but with a slight difference because they know their children’s fathers and their children have their fathers’ names in the schools’ registers.

Frank’s mother did not know the father of her child, or may be for some reason she had refused to disclose who that man was. One reason for hiding the name as we know today is having a child by someone in the family. Some, with their brothers and even a case was once reported of a father who had a child by his daughter.

Cases of this kind are rare, but they have been reported in some parts of the world, including Tanzania. In some aspects, their challenges and problems are the same, although those in the class of Frank’s mother come to a more difficult time, when their children want to know their biological fathers.

Some live in the families of their mothers’ husbands among other children born by the same mothers, where such mothers are lucky to get married; while others live in their mothers’ maiden homes.

Whether living in or outside their mothers’ maiden homes, the children come to a time when they want to know, meet and in some cases, live with their fathers.

Some come to a time when they want to stab their mothers with knives, if that demand is not met.

Majority of single mothers in towns do not have stable incomes, while others do not have income of any kind at all; some are employed at very low wages and work for only three months at a time, then step out for a while and resume work again, because employers do not want to employ them permanently and the law requires one who’d served for a period above three months to be enrolled in the institution’s payroll.

Very few have education above that offered in primary school for seven years, while others have not even completed the seven years’ period. Most of such mothers do not have property of any kind, including land.

These women as we have already seen live with children, sometimes in rented single rooms. Just a room with children of both sexes and at times with their mother’s boyfriend.

The children need food, clothes and education; a kilogramme of maize flour has reached the price of 1400/-, while that of rice has risen to 2100/- and rent per room is 20,000/- or more payable in advance for at least three months; the said free education up to standard seven costs the parents a lot of miscellaneous expenses that are authorized by school boards.

One school board chairman was once heard saying, “nobody forced you to have children; you should not bear children if you are not ready to meet their subsistence expenditure.” This he said when a woman aired her opinion that 2000/- was too much for water in a year.

The school was actually two primary schools in one, (A and B) having 2000 pupils and 2000/- per pupil aggregated to 4m/- which the single mother thought was too much as payment for school’s water bill in a year. Of course she was right, but the chairman’s response was that one of humiliating the mother. ”Even members of the ruling class utter nasty words as they go house to house asking for contributions of Uhuru torch, water or school building.

As human beings, we must be considerate; a boy who impregnates a girl or a woman in the village is looked upon as a hero, while the girl is considered a whore.

The girl has not employed any impulse from without. Take for instance a girl who lives in her father’s house for 30 years and had not been lucky to find a man to marry her; for how long must she wait without accepting the many men who entice her to accept them as their girlfriend? She may accept one, intending the friendship to last long and perhaps mature to marriage, only to find herself pregnant and left stranded. Some people might say she must not offer herself to such man before marriage.

Yes, I agree with such commentators, but she might have turned down several boyfriends, who walked away cursing her. She had accepted that last one, thinking perhaps she had long been neglected because she had not offered herself to them.

Or perhaps as a human being she had longed to hold a baby in her arms like other women. After all, children are parents’ help in old age; won’t she like other human beings want to get help in old age? She had then accepted one man in order to get a child of her own; why should she be considered a whore and loathed by society?

 May I call upon the legislators of our land to consider the situation of these single mothers. There is a policy for old folks and children under five to get free medical attention in government hospitals; unemployment allowance policy might someday be established, but these single mothers need immediate help from the public; they’ve perhaps behaved against the norms of our society but spilled water cannot be recovered.

Let us consider their situation and enable them live comfortably in this land of abundance we’ve been given by our maker.



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