By Isaac O’neill
Department of Planning
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana
Suggestion, not an Order
The suggestion of giving birth to at most three children per family by the Ghana Population Council is not farcical, but one which is met with unending critics. Is been debated across the breath and width of the country. At homes, the marketplace, on the street, everywhere people are debating on this suggestion. The incessant criticisms are not histrionic, but one will be forgiven to describe it as a raising hell by Ghanaians. Is not early days yet to discuss this issue and deliberate on it as a national issue? From the council’s perspective, the rate at which our population is growing means an immediate suggestion rather than living under a false pretense, will be better.
To criticize against it wouldn’t be a jejune, but a better explanation to Ghanaians will be accepted with open arms. The decision is not an order nor a request but a suggestion and like all suggestions, the door is always open for any criticisms and the council will take it. My take on this matter won’t be a comic relief but a professional insight. If asked about the take on the matter my view will be in folds, as ordinary Ghanaian, and a professional view as a Planner.
Starting with the former, the suggestion is a good one and a bold attempt. This suggestion stands to benefit mothers; mentally, physically, and financially. Financially, if you draw an analogy between the income power of two mothers both with the same means it can be revealed that the difference in the number of children has a pivotal influence in their income. With small family size, one can cater for the needs of the children because the aggregate needs of the family will be low giving the need to save more than spending.
The mother can work in her prime age and save to meet the needs of the children in future. But the mother with the children exceeding for can make things worse because whenever he children needs are not met presently it will be obvious that it will remain the same in the future because nothing good will come from Nazareth, humorously. Imagine a mother with eight children, with two years’ difference between births. With a high financial demand but fragile source of income, the mother will be mentally stressed by thinking about how to cater for the basic needs of the children.
If care is not taken, the physical wellbeing of the mother will also be at stake because whatever she has will unequivocally go to the children, in the case of a good mother. Judging from this scenario, one can conclude that with less number of children, mothers stand to benefit financially, mentally and physically. With an estimated 700,000 yearly additional to the base population, my second view will be professional, and it will be centered on treating this as a suggestion to a problem at hand rather than on hand.
The suggestion from the council is a good one but I don’t think as a Ghanaian Planner, it is time for our country to direct our attention to that path. One will argue pessimistically that our country has the resource to cater for the growing population, and that is correct. Although we are ignorantly damaging our environment be it the forest to ‘galamsey’ (illegal mining), our oceans to plastic pollution and our air to the incessant act of burning; population and development is inextricably intertwined and that is bound to happen.
Taking certain theories into consideration, thus the theory of carrying capacity, and the theory of ecological footprint which explains the amount of the resources that can cater for a given population and their waste, and the amount of land required to sustain the agricultural needs of our population, the person on the ‘for’ side of this argument can be vindicated. However, taking a long view on this matter; research has shown that only two out four births in Ghana are planned. Sticking our guns on this research outcome, it means that with six children only three were planned. What is government doing about this? Family planning should be the answer to the increasing rate of our population. Family planning should seriously be taken; the nation must commit resource to ensure that all births in this country is planned. We need good family planning programmes, policies, objectives and strategies. This calls for the integration of Planners, assisting in developing the necessary indicators that will proof that we are on track.
In light of recent criticisms, the Council must lend its’ name to the public that it was only a suggestion and not an order. This will cool all the public brouhaha as far as the take on population control is concerned. All said and done, like all suggestions, giving a detailed explanations and reasons will be great for the nation. It is a good decision but it shouldn’t be stressed on by Ghanaians. We have what it takes to grow in population size but only if we plan well. Because it is said; Those that fail to plan, plan to fail!