Mrs Melodius Sazise Ndlovu graduated with a master’s in education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for her research that investigated the schooling experiences of high school learners who are directly or indirectly affected by polygamy. The focus was to find the voice of the child regarding polygamy as a marriage system.
Ndlovu’s study found a number of parental problems which impacted on children’s well-being, which included issues related to child abuse, neglect and child abandonment.
‘Adults make decisions in terms of the marriage system they would like to follow, but children are not part of that decision yet they are the ones who are affected the most, especially in a patriarchal society where polygamy usually thrives. Children do not have the platform or opportunity to articulate themselves, particularly through their own personal life experiences.
‘Their experiences remain hidden and may resurface later in life either negatively or positively, depending on the experience or the nature of the child. I wanted to understand children’s geographies in their multi-faceted spaces and places. It is my belief that children can be agents of change in their intricate spaces and places,’ said Ndlovu.
The findings revealed that participants mainly cited the unfair treatment of wives and children as the major concern and reason they were against the practice.
‘Even those in favour of polygamy agreed that most fathers do not manage their households in a fair and equitable manner. Most of the participants cited the spread of HIV/AIDS as being exacerbated by polygamy and thereby making it difficult to provide solutions for the pandemic that has ravaged society for almost three decades,’ she said.
The findings further indicate that not all participants were against the practice as others pledged their support for the longstanding practice. Some of the participants, especially boys, were brave enough to admit that they are fond of girls and therefore would like to be in polygamous relationships when they grow up.
‘Although customary law makes provision for senior wives to consent to the husband’s decision to take another wife, participants indicated that women are usually dependent on men, financially and therefore, despite the fact that the law protects them in principle, they remain subordinate to male authority,’ said Ndlovu.
Highlighting some of the joys of her research, Ndlovu said, ‘The relationship that I forged with the participants reminded me of my days as an educator. Discussing issues that affect them and getting them to express their views on the subject at hand was enlightening. It made me realise the importance of the subject for the children and that indeed children need to be given platforms to talk about what matters to them.’
Ndlovu thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Pholoho Morojele for their support. She now plans on pursuing her PhD.
Her advice to other students: ‘Hard work, patience perseverance and little play pay off in the end. Try and spend time on your work every day or regularly, otherwise wide gaps in between may cause one to abandon their studies.’
Her proud sister Amanda said, ‘Congratulations to Sazi. We are so proud of her. She remains a beacon of light within the family.’