Many South African boys, especially those from vulnerable communities, live in a home without a father – according to Statistics South Africa’s 2016 Community Survey, 64% of households have an absent biological father. While some studies show that fatherless children – boys in particular – experience issues like behavioural problems, poor academic performance, and drug and alcohol abuse, it’s not necessarily always the case. And it’s not necessarily the lack of a father that’s the problem.
Time and again, studies show that it’s the absence of a positive male role model that’s pivotal in a boy’s development.
A 2017 South African study revealed that, even though the absence of a father is often cited as a risk-factor for teenage boys when it comes to behavioural problems, the mere presence of male figures, such as teachers or uncles, in a boy-child’s life is not enough. Besides, a biological father can still be around, but he can be an alcoholic or abusive – and a high-conflict environment can be far more damaging than a missing dad.
A boy-child needs a positive male influence not just to imitate, but to help him form a healthy masculine identity: a boy must have a mentor to guide him into manhood.
In the 2016 documentary film entitled In a Perfect World – which explores the dynamics of men who were raised by single mothers in the U.S. – all the men featured ‘adopted’ men with healthy masculinities to fill the role of their father. For example, an uncle stepped into the father role for his nephew. These loving and supportive men guided the fatherless boys towards a positive version of manhood, so that they could eventually become the men they were meant to be.
Mentor a Boy Child gives vulnerable boys access to positive male role models, so that they can be taught new ways of understanding what it means to be a man. The NPO was co-founded in 2017, and in 2020 the pilot group of 60 boys will graduate from the programme – they will then pay it forward and become role models for the next cohort. Through their mentorship programme, Mentor a Boy Child aims to instill healthy masculinity in young boys so that they can become well-rounded, confident men.
Support Mentor a Boy Child to transform boys into (better) men; contact them for more information.