Parenting vs modernity, the dilemma of 2023

By Eriah Lule

By January 2023, Uganda’s social media platforms were awash with videos unfolding different events, such as the “Pretty Nicole saga,” where young adults were fighting for a boyfriend, and the “Gashumba, Father-Daughter Incident,” where the father had grudges against the daughter.

The advancement of technology has narrowed the global interaction space, which simplifies communication across continents. This has resulted in a cultural influence and a parenting trend among Ugandan parents. 

In the Children’s Act 2016, parental responsibility refers to all legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority that a parent of a child has over the child. 

However, parents are leaving their children in the hands of house managers, the internet, and television most of the time, if not all of the time, as well as teachers at schools.

In one of his research papers, Rev. Canon Prof. Edison Kalengyo, a father of three and a grandfather, noted that for a long time, the home remained the primary educational center for the children and the parents were the teachers.

Where the parenting process is absent or incoherent, it is possible to end up with the extinction of a particular group of people or their complete assimilation into another cultural group.

In his article “The modern Ugandan parent” in the Daily Monitor on January 13, 2023, Ian Ortega elucidated the direction parenting is heading. Children are being raised without mother figures and father figures; they are growing up and finding themselves in marriages and having children, yet they have never had a template of what good looks like. All the children know is that father is a person who returns home to shout, and mother is the person who makes up for all father’s faults.

With the advancement of the internet, the modern Ugandan parent is focusing more on social media than on their children. “The father is tweeting, the mother is tick-tocking, and the kid is somewhere running an only-fans page.”

Jackie Bwiire, a mother and a child specialist with over 10 years’ experience, notes that modern parenting styles are not about moving us from our roles as parents but bringing in more channels to engage with our children.

With the sagas on social media unfolding daily, Bwiire noted that the environment that children grow up in influences their behavior as they grow. “This is called the social learning theory, which has been proven over time,”  she said.

Bwiire further urged that the exposure of the media and internet to either regulated or unregulated content in parents’ absentia has been a menace to justify all of Ortega’s views.

Harriet Asiimwe believe that modernism has raised children who believe they are entitled to everything; to compensate for their absence, parents must provide an explanation or a materialistic item as an apology. 

“This is no longer a story, but we have heard many scenarios of children committing suicide for various reasons,”  she said.

Children are being left in the hands of house managers who have little or no knowledge on parenting, and over time, due to the rising cases of torture and mistreatment, parents have resorted to boarding schools and day cares.

Due to exposure, children these days even know their rights. Nabulime Ann, a resident of Mukono Division and a mother of five, notes that we as parents have watched our children fall astray because of modernism. They are not accountable to anyone and do whatever pleases them.

“Am thinking that if our parents raised us like that, could we be the same people we are today?” she asked, “Where it takes a cane to pick it up and if it’s word of mouth, the same, but if we just copy Western cultures, I am troubled with the generation we are raising and employing.” 

In one of his engagements, Rev. Canon. William Ongeng, the Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, was still shocked at how the world has changed without the church noticing, especially in parenting.

“We grew up as children of society, not of a particular family; in case of a mistake, you would be accountable to any community member,”  he said.

He further noted that these days everyone’s for themselves, yet in our compounds we stand as fountains of discipline for our children, even though we also do wrong.

According to Natalie Grace Nansambu, a teacher at North Green School, many absentee parents think school can compensate for the lost time and gap between them and their children. In that gap, many children breed habits that parents would have noticed at home if they had played their role.

“It’s absurd that many parents use school as a space for relief from their children rather than bonding with them at home,”  she said. “Due to a lack of parental guidance and social constraints, children find themselves vulnerable to whatever new thing comes through since they are not accountable to anyone.”

She went on to say that while school plays a role in children’s well-being, parental bonding creates a lifetime bridge between children and their parents.

If not well attended to and advocated for on a family basis, modernism and parenting might cost Ugandans a lot and soon become a national challenge for discussion.