South Africans unconvinced by Zuma’s teen mom solution

President Jacob Zuma’s solution for creating a society not dependent on child-support grants involves separating children from their teen moms until the mothers are educated, and able to work and take care of their kids.

Zuma outlined his controversial plan for the second time in Parliament on Tuesday, saying: “Take them [teen moms] to Robben Island or any other island, sit there, study until they are qualified to come back and work to look after their kids.”

But is addressing the issue as cut and dried as the president makes out? ZIMASA MATIWANE found out what people think of Zuma’s idea.

MyezaGladys Myeza, 65, nurse, Umzinyathi
Children should bond with their mothers, which is how nature works; it’s important for a child to know its real mother. There is no mention of who will raise them when their moms are forced to go study far away: could it be foster parents? If those children are raised by anyone they will be raised like street kids because they won’t know their family traditions and values. I think virginity testing and strong religious teachings can encourage abstinence – family planning can work as a last resort. What the president is saying is: get pregnant, we will raise your child for you, there won’t be any consequences, and we will give you education as bonus. It’s not a solution. The president’s concern seems to lean more on cutting child support grants, not [addressing] teenage or unplanned pregnancy – it can’t and won’t work.

Eugene HigginsonEugene Higginson, 57, construction project manager, Manor Gardens
It’s quite disturbing coming from the president, who obviously has no idea of family planning. It think it would be better to provide a good example of family planning. Make sure that children understand that breeding without accepting the consequences is a very bad thing to do for the individual, the family and the nation. The consequences should not be banishing those who err: that will never solve the problem. We need education-based solutions, and for parents and schools to curb this scourge. Some children are raped by uncles or their mother’s boyfriend: should they also be separated from their young ones; leave them in the same family that might have hidden the rape and treated it as a family rather than a criminal matter? That can’t work.

Bridget MatthysBridget Matthys, 54, credit controller, Newlands East
For a lot of children, if they grow up without their parents, it affects them in the long run. They end up being rebellious – especially during the teenage years – because they feel unloved, like they were deserted by their mothers, which causes more problems for society. What happens when the mother leaves and does not bond with the child, leaving the baby in the care of the grannies forever? Young mothers should and can study while at home with the child and the granny, which creates a good family environment for raising a child. South Africa needs preventative measures for teenage pregnancies, not what the president is proposing. Those preventative measures should focus both on the girl and boy child – girls don’t get pregnant by themselves, you know.

Lizeka madunaLizeka Maduna, 23, student, Berea, Durban
It’s a good idea because right now teenage pregnancy in SA is on the rise. We can’t have teenagers being mothers without any education or qualifications. They can’t take care of their children and unfortunately the money they get for grants is money other people work hard for. They are not even feeding children with the money; they are doing their hair and nails. Knowing that most fathers run away when there is a baby involved I can’t say much about them, but I can say that they also should be going to school. You can never say fathers must stick around and look after the baby – that won’t happen anyway. My mom would never allow me to not go to school; it’s unfortunate that other children do not have mothers to take care of their kids, but a plan can be made instead of them just throwing their future away, sitting at home, and having more babies.

Zimasa MaguduZimasa Magudu, 23, student, Glenwood, Durban
I respect the president’s effort. The idea of sending young mothers to school is a very good one and I believe that it shows just how much of a problem teenage pregnancy is. People are judging [Zuma’s comments] with emotion rather than logic. When this happens, the teen moms will obtain an education, the babies will hopefully grow up in comfortable surroundings, and the people who fall victim of being guardians will be relieved of such responsibility. There are some concerns, such as where the money and the manpower to care for these babies  will come from, as well as where the money and resources to educate the teen moms will come from. The implementation of a programme like this would have long-term benefits. There will always be pros and cons but this will hopefully have the interests and wellbeing of the babies, the teen moms, and the country at heart.

– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
– Featured image: via GovernmentZA Flickr; all other images by Zimasa Matiwane.