It was the summer of 2005 and just like any other summer, the sun was out and everyone was having a grand time. Jenna, a teenage Trinidadian girl met Steve, an older Tobagonian man at a party and their story began. They saw each other a lot during the month of July, meeting mostly in public places. On two occasions, Steve went to Jenna’s home and the “couple” engaged in sexual activity, culminating with intercourse. As the vacation drew to a close, Jenna began “sweating” over her situation. Without much knowledge of Steve, they engaged in unprotected sex and she grew worried. A month and a half elapsed and she has not menstruated. Considering the possibility of being pregnant, she visited a nearby pharmacy and purchased a pregnancy test- POSITIVE. A visit to the gynaecologist confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. She called Steve, the obvious father of her unborn child and told him “I’m pregnant!”. Steve firstly denied that he was the father of the child but later repeatedly admonished Jenna to seek an abortion. Jenna, could not and did not. She decided to keep her baby and raise the child on her own.
Today, twelve years later, Akeem is about to write the SEA examinations and his teachers have no expectations of him. However, they are hopeful that he will do well enough so that they will finally get rid of him at the school. Akeem has been described as a hyperactive, aggressive and angry boy, by his teachers. A product of his circumstances, he is a poverty-stricken underachiever and his teachers have already given up on him. His mother feels helpless and he is lost. What is his problem? Why is he not like his peers? Why has nothing seemed to work? The answer- Akeem is fatherless. Children from father absent homes are more likely to grow up in poverty, face academic and psychological challenges, as well as have a hard time integrating themselves into society. Fathers represent stability in a child’s life. They offer guidance, protection, advice and safety. When the father is absent, the child is disadvantaged. Akeem is not at fault, he is simply a product of his environment. The love Jenna has for her son compelled her to seek professional help and in a joint counselling session she discovered a shocking trend. Jenna’s father was absent from her life, she never knew either of her grandfathers and now Akeem is fatherless, a daunting cycle.
All is not lost for Akeem. Society measures intelligence by our ability to perform academically, however according to Dr. Howard Gardener (the theory of multiple intelligences), academics is just one facet on the scale of intelligences. Maybe Akeem is not academically inclined, but more inclined to do Sports or Arts. His mother, Jenna can find such programmes to have him explore and see which one(s) he prefers and excels at. Looking toward positive male role models in these other arenas can have a positive effect on Akeem, giving him the confidence and assurance he needs to know that there is hope for him and that he can be successful in whatever he works hard at. Fatherlessness is not a life sentence that cannot be remedied. In fact, sex education programmes, counselling, mentorship, planned parenthood and contraceptives have all been effective in combatting the cycle of absent fathers.
Our choices and decisions shape our futures. Akeem’s parents could have chosen not to engage in sexual intercourse, use protection, or his father could have chosen to stay and be a part of his life. However, Akeem can choose to be different and end the cycle of father absence in his family. He can choose to take charge of his life and future. He can choose to make better decisions in hope of a better outcome. We too can choose. We can choose to abstain, use contraceptives, accept responsibility, and be better for those that depend on us. Father absenteeism is a plague that negatively affects our families, communities and by extension our society. Combatting father absenteeism requires a collective effort. By working together we can contribute to changing our planet. Let us continue on our journey, the mission of redefining our world.