'Only 1 in 10 young fathers remain in school': Facts about SA's teen dads

"Young fathers acknowledged that the caring role of a father is overtaken by a need to provide financially for their children."(Westend61/Getty Images)
"Young fathers acknowledged that the caring role of a father is overtaken by a need to provide financially for their children."(Westend61/Getty Images)

Tlangelani Loneck Makamu holds a Master's degree in Demography and Population Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand and currently works as a researcher in the labour industry.

His dissertation, "Young Fathers in South Africa", is a cross-sectional study analysing the 2008 and 2012 South African National HIV Prevalence, HIV Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey (SABSSM)

The data includes responses from more than four million South African males, aged 15 to 24 - of this number, 365 845 were fathers. 

"Young fathers have been overlooked in the existing policy landscape of early parenting," Makamu says, pointing to the South African Schools Act (1996) as a prime example. 

"One of the notable policies is the South African Schools Act (1996) which has been critiqued for its emphasis on young mothers, and not addressing the challenges faced by young fathers who are still at school." 

Ultimately, Makamu says he hopes his research will highlightswho young fathers are in South Africa and the socioeconomic factors that limit their access to support. 

Their age and marital status 

According to Makamu's research, nine out of 10 young fathers in South Africa were found to be between 20 and 24 years old, and one out of 10 were between 15 and 19 years old. 

The majority (90%) were unmarried and not living with their partners. 

Where they live

Mostly in urban areas, says Makamu - "the percentage of young fathers by place of residence was high in urban areas (75%) compared to rural areas (25%)"." 

The Western Cape and Gauteng were the top places of residence for teen fathers, with 20% and 18% of young dads living in these provinces respectively. 

"This finding was not consistent with previous studies that were reviewed,"  Makamu tells Parent24. "The available literature in South Africa showed that the majority of young males who were fathers would come from three provinces with the highest poverty rates. These provinces are KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo." 

They are school dropouts 

The study found that 50% of teen dads were unemployed, and only one out of 10 said they remained in school after becoming fathers. 

Makamu says that this high drop-out rate was a result of young fathers seeking employment. 

"Young fathers acknowledged that the caring role of a father is overtaken by a need to provide financially for their children. Therefore, failure to provide financially contributes to most young fathers dropping out of school to try and provide for their children." 

A failure to provide for their children was reported as being a top reason many young fathers did not remain in their children's lives, Makamu says.

Many do not practise safer sex, even after becoming a father 

Makamu's research shows that even after fathering a child, 50% of teen dads "reported not using a condom the last time they had sex." 

Makamu says this behaviour was largely informed "by the social environment they live in which is mostly characterised by substance abuse and gender-based violence among other factors". 

Many of the respondents shared that they believed females must be responsible for contraception and HIV prevention. 

"Another reason for inconsistent condom use, even after being a young father, was that they wanted to leave a legacy, keep a partner, and wanting to be seen as 'fashionable' amongst their peers." 

'Parents have a role to play' 

Makamu says that South African parents have a huge role to play in guiding and supporting their male teens who become dads. 

One of the biggest misconceptions the research points out is limiting beliefs about the role of a father as a financial provider only. 

"They should be taught not to limit the role of being a father to only being financially responsible to their chi,ldren. This understanding would ensure that our society breeds a generation of present fathers." 

Makamu also urges the parents of young mothers not to deny young fathers access to their children when they are unable to provide financially as this only increases parental alienation. 

Makamu says that his research also makes it clear that young males need to be educated about sexual responsibility. 

"It is evident that parents have a role to play in giving more sexual education to young males. This will ensure that they are fully aware of their contraception responsibility and not making this the responsibility of their female counterpart." 

Do teen dads need more support? Tell us your story. 

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