by Cindy Zentle

Teething problems persist

SA families 'most dysfunctional' in the world

We need to have another look at our priorities.
World Family Map 2013

An extensive study on the health, education and general wellbeing of families across the world indicates that South African families are some of the most dysfunctional in the world and reveals how poverty and unemployment are affecting our children's chances in life.

International non-governmental organisation, Child Trends, released the results of the study titled "World Family Map 2013", which analyses data from 45 countries to compare the state of families from different countries.  

The most troubling findings for South Africa include:

South African children are most likely to grow up without a biological parent in their household.

Twenty-one percent of all South African children grow up in such households. In other African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, about 10% of children grow up without either parent. In the vast majority of other countries surveyed, less than 5% of children grow up without either parent.

South African children are most likely to grow up in households where the head of the family is unemployed.

Fifty-five percent of South African children grow up in households where the head of the family is unemployed. In Kenya, Indonesia and Egypt, for example, the rates of unemployed household heads are only 12%, 11% and 7% respectively. 

Only one in five children grow up in households where the household head has completed secondary education. 

This means that 80% of children grow up in households where the household head did not complete high school. Although this is on par with other African countries, South Africa’s education budget for the last financial year was in excess of R16 billion. Given that only 37.5% of the learners who had enrolled in Grade 1 in 2001 actually matriculated in 2012, this pattern is inexcusably set to continue.

99% of South Africans live on less than R10 a day. 

What the report in effect finds is that South African children grow up in some of the most trying conditions in the world. Our children are most likely to grow up without parents or with unemployed parents and very likely to grow up in households where neither parent has high school education. 

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for improving the lives of our children. This is an immensely complex problem that will require a massive and holistic effort to resolve. 

In order to stem the worrying trends identified by this study, government must improve on its current delivery of education, health, safety and economic opportunities. 

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