30 November 2021

Professor Mahlomaholo explains that this law requires, as a precondition for its application, that parents and those acting on their behalf should have skills and have been trained to positively and subtly influence the children in the right direction through caring, adherence to highest standards of morality and mature citizenship. 

“The law is very specific that parents and these able caregivers in the place of parents have to mix sternness and leniency, combining concern and strict requirements. They should also enable children to respect diversity and difference, and that their guidance must be scientific and conducted on the basis of their age and personal characteristics. 

Children should be treated as equals and must be shown respect and understanding at all times. The law intends that parents and caregiver should promote good behaviour and mutuality, where parents and children grow together.”

Professor Mahlomaholo explains that the Chinese law concludes by saying that: “Other means and methods that are conducive to minors' overall development and healthy growth” should also be explored and implemented. Now if parents and caregivers do not implement these, then the punishment measures are implemented. 

“However, this happens after thorough training of parents and caregivers, ensuring that all are knowledgeable and truly mindful of what is expected of them. They also are provided with support and resources wherever necessary to ensure that they look well after their own children and those put in their charge,” he says.

Child headed homes
Professor Mahlomaholo says Africa, especially South Africa tried to implement moral regeneration programmes in schools and communities, but this project did not really materialise as some people only focused on its monetary benefits at the stage of conceptualisation. 

“Today with the highest levels of violence, most of which is gender-based and otherwise, murders, criminality and all, one notices that we missed something very huge in the upbringing of our children. My thinking is that we misinterpreted democracy and took it beyond the limits where rights superseded responsibilities,” he adds. 

“There was nobody taking responsibility for anything, no consequences, nor their management. Everything was accepted as it were. For this Family Education Promotion Law and moral regeneration programmes to work in Africa, we need to go back to the basics of our culture that emphasised respect, where democracy was for those who could take responsibility and where there were very firm and strict consequence management strategies. This in my view should be the focus of the entire education project in Africa.”

He further explains that there is a huge number of child headed homes in Mpumalanga and South Africa. “Some children are basically being raised by their grandparents or volunteering community members who adopt them through financial sponsorship. If South Africa were to emulate China, would the Family Promotion Law work in our province?

The differences between China and Africa (South Africa included) is that China has an unbroken history of over
3 000 years of a common culture for its almost monolingual/monolithic population of 1.4 billion people.

This culture is undergirded by strong Chinese home-grown philosophies, such as those of Confucius, Mao Tse Dong and the like which ensure that everybody expects conformity, and is expected to comply and be uniform. Unnecessary and sometimes ‘irresponsible’ deviation from the norm is not tolerated,” he continues. 


“The Chinese society leap-frogged from being one of the poorest countries in the world to being the first or second most economically advanced, depending on who looks at it, in just 40 years. The main reason that made this massive transition possible is because of the culture referred to above, and the fact that the Chinese pride themselves in being led, and to have leaders who do so in the best interest of the huge collective of all followers. They say that they act like one person in their unity that gives them strength. The state is centralist, a kind of socialist market economy where gaps among people in terms of wealth are frowned upon while the focus is to lift ALL.”

Possibility of making it work
Professor Mahlomaholo says South Africa as an instance of Africa is quite the opposite. "It has at some stage been completely colonised by a number of different nations, Arabs, Europeans and all who imposed their different cultures and broke down Africa’s Ubuntu that could have been similar to the Chinese version. Families are broken down due to civil strives, the advent of mines with absent fathers who lived in the metropolis and the rural environments. Such a law as Family Education Law is needed in Africa, but to implement it, would be a herculean task because it would even be difficult to determine the starting point.

For this law to work in Mpumalanga it would require searching for and/or formulating a philosophy that would bind us all together. Then there would be the need for structures to intensively educate the communities. There would be the need to convince everybody to pull in the same direction and place the interests of the province above those of the individual. Schools, parents, departments, and the state generally would have to put together a strategy to effect social and educational transformation," he adds.

"This law is definitely what we need. There would be the need for trainers to train parents on a massive scale. There would be the need for projects and opportunities to be created to elevate the discourses around these to the highest level. There would be the need for research to consistently feed data into what and how well we are doing towards implementation. These imply the need for massive resources, especially funding for marketing the idea, sourcing intellectual capital to drive this process.

In dealing with children who misbehave, it has to be a systemic approach, mounted on research to understand why they misbehave. All variables have to be followed up to determine their effect. Then good and best practices have to be sourced in response to the challenges so that new strategies can be formulated. Punishment and any form of censorship should be the last resort, once we have satisfied ourselves that we have removed all possible and plausible causes. No quick fix solution will work. It is a provincial and national project that requires a new person, a new philosophy, new approaches, etc."

@ Professor Sechaba Mahlomaholo is a Full Professor of Education at the University
of Mpumalanga. He is based at the Siyabuswa Campus.