Family 2019

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Recognising the diversity of SA families

What is “a family”?

In South African law, the answer – or rather, answers – are broad. For example, it’s not considered unusual or unacceptable for children to move between kin and to be raised at different stages by grandparents, parents and other relatives. Kinship care is a widespread and customary practice in South Africa, as it is elsewhere in Southern Africa.

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South African families – and the African culture

Family structures define our personalities and our values

With modernisation – we think of families in the western world context. The mother and father who live in a house until the kids reach adulthood then they move out.

Our African forefathers had a very different idea – and we can learn a lot from them.

In English we say ‘cousin’ and ‘niece’ and ‘nephew’. In Afrikaans it’s ‘neef ‘and ‘niggie’ – but these words don’t exist in the African languages. In an African language a cousin is considered a sister or brother.

The African cultures embrace their relations and treat the extended family as their own. A family is the greater unit of relations. They live together, granny looks after the children when mommy is out working. The kids running around in the village fields playing together and after supper the grandfather sits around the fire telling stories to the children

The African people have a word called UBUNTU – Ubuntu is a word of ancient African origin meaning ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’

Ubuntu is the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. We are all interconnected. You can’t be human all by yourself, and your family plays a crucial significant role in Ubuntu.

In fact, if we apply the Ubuntu philosophy to everyday life – it means we treat everybody as if they are our own family. We should trust each other and lean on each other as if they are our family. As well as love each other, protect each other, as if they are family.

If we applied this philosophy of families and Ubuntu, we could transform our societies.

The old African proverb sums it up perfectly – ‘It takes a village to raise a child’

The meaning of the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is simply that. It takes more than one person to teach a child the ways of life. A child comes upon many different experiences and circumstances during their life and is often taught by someone, other than family, the right or wrong thing to do.



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