18 March 2010

Tanzania: How Population Growth Hinders Progress

Dar Es Salaam — DESPITE increasing slightly in the recent few years, the rate at which the Tanzanian population is growing remains a major impediment to attempts to sustain a steady education system for the next generation.

Planning Commission officials in the President's office reckon that population control is a key factor in building a sound foundation for education in the long- term.

Majige Seleman, principal statistician in the President's office Public Service Management, sounds the alarm that the accelerating population growth should be slowed down as it cannot match the economic expansion and cuts on the Government's future ability at service delivery.

The statistician notes that the current high fertility rate with every woman producing about six children countrywide could soon have a population explosion, which in turn, will see a dwindling quality of education.

Incidentally, the country's economy had picked up in the last five years, but is yet to reach a growth rate of eight per cent required for at least 15 years before the country can claim a middle-income nation status under the Vision 2025 initiative.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the president office's statistics, grew by 6.8 per cent in 2005, 6.2 per cent in 2006 and 7.1 per cent in 2007 Preliminary analysis.

And the sectors that contributed significantly to the growth include-industry, construction and agriculture.

"But this cannot be sustained if the population growth takes an upward trend. The pressure of such a population explosion will be too significant on the government's shoulders." says Statistician Majige

According to him, rapid population growth in situations of low economic growth like experienced in Tanzania, tends to: increase outlays on consumption and draw resources away from saving for productive investment, thus retarding growth in national output through slow capital formation.

Therefore, with consumption levels going up, education facilities across the country will not be spared as the population pressure would cause strains on the Government, families and individuals.

The 2002 Population and Housing Census showed that the population of Tanzania increased from 23.1 million in 1988 to 34.4 million in 2002, putting the growth rate during the period at a rate of 2.9 percent per annum.

In 1948, the population was 7.5m, jumped to 17m in 1978, then 22.5m in 1988.It went up to 33.5m in 2002 and continued to go up to 38.6 in 2007.

In 1992, each woman would produce over 6 children and 5.7 children in 2005.

But Isabella Nyarugusi, Programme officer Family planning at the Ministry of Health believes that Tanzania's fertility rate could plunge with the current efforts to institutionalise family planning programmes across the country, a development she notes, is likely to reduce consumption rates among the population.

"Future population growth will be largely determined by what happens to fertility."she says

Family planning efforts have in some areas been undermined by an unmet need among some areas where contraceptives are not readily available for potential users.

The government through the minister for health and social welfare Prof David Mwakyusa revealed on Friday that there was a countrywide shortage of contraceptives.

While handing over reproductive health equipment worth 1.5bn/- to the health ministry on Friday,the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Dr. Julitta Onabanjo said that the Implanons and Microlut handed over to the government , are not only ensuring that reproductive health rights are observed and individuals and couples can decide freely when and how many children they want to have, but also saves lives and reduces maternal and child mortality.

Gaps still remain with 22 percent of women in Tanzania mainland and 31 percent in Zanzibar in need of contraceptives to space or limit their family size, according to the 2004/05 TDHS. This implies that a quarter of all births in the country are still unplanned or unintended.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo thus called upon the government to mobilize and sustain resources that are essential for achieving cost-effective family planning services in order to achieve the target set in the Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan to increase the prevalence of contraceptive use (CPR) from 20 percent to 60 percent by 2015.

Robert Heinz, a population scientist in Dar es Salaam says the factors leading to high fertility, are early and nearly universal marriage for women.

"There is also low social and educational status of women in society which prevent them from taking decision on their fertility and use of family planning services", says Heinz

However, the Planning Commission official also cites inadequate effective fertility regulation among women of reproductive age.

Other factors, he says are rooted in the socio cultural value system where there is the value of children as a source of domestic and agricultural labour and old-age economic and social security for parents, male child preference and

A government document titled "Tanzania: Population, Reproductive Health and Development", notes the impact of future population growth on provision of Education and Health services.

As such, if the present high fertility rate of 6.3 remains constant, the higher population Growth will also provide a reality check on the sustenance of government policies such as free primary and secondary education and free medical care at government hospitals for selected ailments.

It is what Mr Majige says will affect how the government caters on Primary School Enrolment, Number of Primary Schools and Number of Primary School Teachers.

Giving an example of Thailand, where, when fertility declined, more resources were available for education and expenditures per student rose dramatically, thus leading to more educational opportunities and a better educated labour force for the country.

As a result, the economic dependency ratios changed with declining fertility.

Because a larger proportion of the population was engaged in economically productive activities, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was able to rise much more rapidly than would have been the case with continued high fertility.

"We have to put our efforts, among others, on ensuring that individuals and couples have access to quality family planning services and satisfying the unmet need for family planning in order to achieve our Development Vision 2025." he says

Population Situation

The 2002 Population and Housing Census showed that the population of Tanzania increased from 23.1 million in 1988 to 34.4 million in 2002.

The population growth rate during the period was at a rate of 2.9 percent per annum. with the proportion of the population aged below 15 years about 44 percent while those aged 65 years and above was 4 percent, indicating that Tanzania has a young population,that needs optimum education facilities.

And in order to control the high rate of fertility, there are efforts to revitalise Family Planning in the country.

Dr. Rugola Mtandu, Director Health Africa Group says family planning advocates have already projected the impact of future population growth on provision of Education and Health services.

Family Planning is important at this point in time to pre-empt the kind of pressure we are likely to see on the few resources. The poor, who have traditional preference for large families, will feel the pinch of the population growth,' said Dr Rugola

Various donors and Non Government Organisations (NGOs), contributed to this effort particularly in the 1990s when contraceptive prevalence rate increased from 6.6 percent in 1992 to 13.3percent in 1999.

But there came a slow pace due to competing development priorities like HIV/AIDS, declining donor support;

Integrating Family Planning in reproductive health services, thus denying it less priority and some Cultural issues.

Why Family Planning

Family Planning, according to Dr Mtandu, improves maternal and child health as it avoids fertility related risks.

However, adolescent child bearing, in Tanzania, is still high with, for example, 52 percent of girls at 19 getting pregnant with first child,4 percent at 15 are pregnant with first child and 34 percent at 18 years are pregnant.

According to the principal statistician, future population growth will be largely determined by what happens to fertility.

With the current high fertility rate, in 2025, the country's population will be 64.5m,whereas, with a decline in the current rate, it would be at 57.3m.

He also warns that if the high fertility rate goes on, the population, in 2035, will be 86.6m and would only be 20m people less if fertility reduced among Tanzanians today.

With a decline in fertility rate, the number of primary schools students will be 10.1m but with the current high fertility rate, it would increase to 12.2m by 2025.

Also, in 2035,pupils will jump to 16.0m if the high fertility rate remains constant.However,if people take measures and change, the number of pupils would be 10.1m.There are around 7.5m pupils in primary schools currently.

This year, the pupils require 14,300 primary schools, but if the present high fertility rate remains constant, the country will require 27,600 primary schools by 2025 yet if it reduced, there would only be requirement of 22,800 primary schools countrywide.

Further, if fertility remains high, the government will be obliged to have 40,000 primary schools almost double than what would be required if the fertility rate went down starting today.

Apparently, the country requires 13,500 primary school teachers, but would need 251,000 by 2025, with the current high fertility rate against 208,000 teachers if the rate of producing children in short space was reduced.

Moreso, it is projected that by 2035,there would be need of 356,000 primary school teachers if fertility was to go down and only 225,000 teachers if parents practised child spacing.

Currently, the government spends around 340bn/- on primary school education, but if the high rate of fertility goes on, the government will need to source for 720bn/- on the sector by 2025,yet,if it went down, the government would only be required to spend sh454bn.

Unlike many of the newly industrialised country's that Tanzania is aspiring to be, it has none of the drastic birth control measures like the number of children each family should bear and relies largely on voluntary family planning methods.

According to Medical Women Association of Tanzania (MEWATA) Chairperson Dr Marina Njelekela, Child spacing also improves child health, for example, Spacing by 2yrs puts infant deaths per 1000 births at 143 and 3-4 years spacing puts the deaths at 55.

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