Orphanhood, A phenomenon beyond paternal and maternal definitions (A case study of Zimbabwean families)


In most instances when we hear the word ‘orphan’, we usually look forward to sorrowful explanations on how a child lost his or her biological parents, this is something we have kept since time immemorial as Africans. In our native language people would whisper ‘akafirwa namai nababa achiri muduku duku’ – we have often pictured orphans as individuals who have lost focal biological breadwinners in the family whom they call parents to be precise, and this has been the reason why in Zimbabwe we have so many biological parents living with their own children who are labelled as orphans as well. The paradox might not make sense scientifically, but if explained through social facts, one might find this article to be of great essence, particularly parents as the main focus. Factors which will be used to define an orphan include parent to parent relationship, child welfare, as well as the impact of the community influence amongst other factors as well.

An orphan in the context of marital disorders

A healthy marriage shows no deficiency in communication, love and laughter. Any child would be disturbed if cases of domestic violence repetitively occur in his or her own presence. Unnecessary fights and scornful conversations are typical examples of marital woes that would make any child relieved when any of his or her parents die. You find that instead of a child becoming an orphan when both of you die, the child would be in a much safer place and will never miss the time she or he spent as part of you. The child is in this case is an orphan. You as a couple are still alive but in the eyes of the child you are dead. I, as a twenty-two-year-old, has no knowledge whatsoever of what it entails to be married. I however have adequate knowledge on the dangers of what it means when a child is treated as an orphan yet his or her parents would be still alive, but negligent of their duties.

In Zimbabwe patriarchal thoughts are practically opposed to the feministic views, instead of the mother spending time with the children, she spends her time in trying to be equal with the father and instead of the father aiming at becoming a responsible pillar to the children, he is busy seeking answers as to why he is challenged by feminists. At the end of the day there is an ever-increasing number of orphans in Zimbabwe and Africa at large due to such ills. One inspiring couple is that of my Uncle Jerry and wife Sheila, I aspire to also follow their footprints so as to minimize chances of my children being called orphans whilst I would be still alive. A true understanding proves that conflict in a marriage is unavoidable, however, couples should know how to solve it in a decent way, seeking counselling and spiritual guidance as some may be demons. This is very essential as it will indirectly secure the life of our children and their welfare.

An orphan in the context of a Parent to Child relationship

The free gifts offered to a child will be the most remarkable ones in his or her life because moments are expensive to forget as they are everlasting. This is the reason why so many well-kept children have remarkable thoughts and reminiscences of their childhood. When a child becomes an orphan whilst his or her parents are still alive, it does not mean to say that they would not be having money to buy everything she wishes for. It simply entails that the parents would not be making their presence felt. Shona statements like mhamha vati havasi kukwanisa kuuya kuprize giving day nekuti vati kungangoita vaenzi, would disturb any hard-working child and at the end they become orphans.

Children usually work hard simply to impress, if the one to be impressed shows reluctance, this becomes problematic. Motivation should always be their potion for them to achieve their dreams. Even an orphan who has lost both parents, when she hears that her guardians have made efforts to visit her at school, without even asking what they bought, this child would be overwhelmed and excited to feel the love demonstrated by her guardians. Here in the dusty streets of Epworth, a child with no shoes would run opening arms when his father arrives. The father also proclaims and responds to show that, even in times when ‘I cannot provide I still acknowledge my presence as the father of this child’. This is what we as social workers expect in families around Zimbabwe, to be united and show love to these children not only in their absence but even when they are present with us.


I would like to thank Tariro House of Hope for giving me a rare opportunity to share this article with the social world as part of my social work, in alerting various individuals who are a threat to child welfare, I would also like to applaud Stanly (Childline Zimbabwe) for working so hard as a child activist, not forgetting Allan Ndondo the Renovera boy, above all the Mundondo Family. Let’s work together as families and organisations, putting efforts to make sure that every child enjoys not a spoiled childhood as you may name it, but rather a deserving childhood experience as they will pay us back as parents even threefold in the future.

Stop child abuse and fight child neglect – together we will make a difference!

Compiled and written by Annesley Ndondo

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