There is no need to limit the number of children couples should have, Associate Professor with the Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS) of the University of Ghana, Prof. Stephen Owusu Kwakye has said.
The National Population Council NPC had earlier described the 2.5% annual population growth of Ghana as alarming. And renewed calls for limiting the number of children per couples to three. In the view of its Executive Director Dr. Leticia Appiah, this will improve the quality of life of Ghanaians and reduce the pressure on social amenities.
But Prof. Kwakye questioned the claims that the population growth rate is alarming. “Our population growth has always been how we find it. It has always hovered around 2.5%. In fact it used to be 2.7% per annum. Earlier it was even estimated to be 3% in the 70’s and we at 2.5% so I don’t see why that alone should alarm anybody,” he argues.
Instead of ‘lamenting’ Prof. Kwakye contends that Ghana has a great ‘advantage’ with the growth.
“Looking at the population structure it is showing that we have some positive developments which we should take advantage of instead of lament that 2.5% is alarming. Especially if you’re not in the position to say that all of it coming from fertility. We have mortality, fertility, and migration as well. As at now, we are not even sure of the contribution of migration to our population growth because we don’t have the data. If you have a growth rate of 2.5% and you have a population structure below 15 years shrinking then you should also have a mind to say that a growth rate of 2.5% is not because fertility is that high and therefore I am not too sure whether to describe our population growth as alarming.”
For Prof. Kwakye it is critical to expand the economy to provide jobs for the teeming mass of the population of the youth adding that, “Ghana has long moved beyond mere numbers when the economy expands with adequate provision of jobs and skills for people. They themselves will become the human resource that will turn the economy around. You don’t need the numbers. The quality is what is important.”
He challenged the feasibility of legislating the outcome of private interactions of individuals, saying “I don’t see how anybody can legislate that nobody should have more than 3 children. I don’t think it’s feasible. They shouldn’t try it.”
According to him, calls for limiting child birth is an excuse for economic mismanagement over the years, ‘because we are unable to manage our resources very well, we think that it is that numbers that is creating the problems. I agree that if my resources at my disposal can not take of my children, and I have 3 of them, obviously the quality of life will be compromised. But if you say nobody should have more than 3, I can assure there are some who have only 1 but cannot take care of them while others have five and can take good care of them”
Focusing on the health of mothers who have many children will help reduce the incidence of high, he reasons, ‘the emphasis should be on the health of the mother. When the mother has too many births the health implications can be very grave. So that is the angle I think the emphasis should be such that you regulate in way that if people come to appreciate that if I have too many children it will have grave implications on my health then why don’t I have fewer’.
He proposed in addition other alternatives to reducing child births, ‘gradually as we sensitize people and then we present them with accessible and affordable family planning methods, a time will come the 3 that we are talking about will be even too high for the people when they talk their individual decisions.
He said legislating child birth may incur the rebellion of the people, “if you’re not very careful and you legislate it will backfire. People will rebel. So appeal to them. Present them with affordable and accessible family planning methods, let them get educated, that’s why another root to this is empowering women by educating the girl child not forgetting the boy child.”
Explaining why the poor have more children while the rich have fewer Prof. noted “the rich people who are educated will insist on quality education. So they want to invest in the education of the child to whatever level. So if I want to insist on quality education and I have more than two or three quality will be compromised that’s what we call in demographic analysis the cycle of poverty through population or high fertility. But the poor think they can’t boast of any good life of shelter. And so they always hide behind religious beliefs that it is God who caters for everybody so once they give birth the relay on God hoping that one of their children will become successful and take care of them. That’s where education comes in.”
Prof. Kwakye said If education is universally accessible andthere is every possibility people with reason along and reduce births voluntarily, stating that “at the same time if the resources are well managed there will be jobs for the youth and overcrowding can be checked. By so doing we won’t just grow in terms of numbers but quality too so that every hand will be able to feed itself.”
By: Caleb Kudah/citifmonline.com/Ghana