In a pioneering move, 23 mkhulus (grandfathers) from the rural Valley of 1000 Hills, KZN, have completed a novel parenting course for male elders as part of the Hillcrest AIDS Centre’s holistic approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and community upliftment. The pilot course, which was funded by the 31 Club and took place over six weeks from 16 August and 20 September 2017 at the Centre’s training venue in Hillcrest, KZN, was developed in response to a call by the gogos (grandmothers) for men to receive the same parenting skills training they receive to make co-parenting easier and to foster a more balanced gender dynamic in the community.
The aim of the course is to encourage and equip male elders with the skills and knowledge they need to share responsibility for caring for their grandchildren or younger relatives, thereby nurturing healthy relationships and lifestyles, and widening the safety net for the next generation. Apart from parenting, health and HIV/AIDS awareness, the course included topics of business skills training, forgiveness and healing from past hurts, the importance of family relationships and communication.
“Many children are missing a ‘father figure’, therefore we need to help grandfathers (as well as fathers and uncles) to be the kind of loving father role models the children need, and to equip them for this task,” said Gogo Support Programme Manager, Cwengi Myeni. “This course provides a safe space for men to discuss any challenges and concerns they have in terms of raising their grandchildren and to access the Centre’s confidential counselling services, as well as to workshop possible solutions. For example, some of the Mkhulus knew very little, if anything, about HIV/AIDS when they started the course and didn’t know there is treatment for TB; others thought you could tell if someone is HIV positive just from the way a person looks. We were able to address these gaps in knowledge and we are very excited that this first course has proved to be so popular.”
One such grandfather is 57 year old Vusumuzi Mgcini from KwaNgcolosi who is a loving grandfather of eight. He heard about the parenting course from our Gogo Support Programme Groups Deputy Manager, Phindiwe Mashiloane. “The course has been very good for my mind and soul. I’ve learnt about the importance of forgiveness and repairing broken relationships with my loved ones” said Vusumuzi.
Phindiwe Mashiloane, Deputy Manager of the Gogo Support Programme, said, “The mkhulus arrived very early and they didn’t miss a session. It shows how interested they were! Some were the husbands of the gogos, or other male relatives, who felt they were missing out on the courses the gogos were attending. At the end of the course, there was a big celebration and they made a very big effort to dress up for their graduation. They brought along their instruments and played maskandi music (traditional music) which they normally do for important ceremonies to show their ‘Ukubonga’ (appreciation).”