The assertion by Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Ashatu Kijaji, that the government has no plan to introduce statutory family planning is most apt in the face of the apparent clamour from some quarters that there should be a ceiling for the number of children a couple should have.
Granted that ours annual population growth rate of 2.7 per cent is considered high, being as it is close to three times the global average rate of 1.1 per cent, but our circumstances are much different from those of countries where a maxim number of offspring a family can have is set by the government.
China, for instance, where for 35 years up to October 2015 enforced a “one-child policy”, was feeling overwhelmed by its population of nearly 1.4 billion in a world of “only” 7 billion people!
India, which has a “two-child policy”, boasts a population of slightly over 1.3 billion, a number the government consider too high for it to allow couples to each have as many child as it wishes.
With a population of 50 million and a geographical size of 947,303sqkm, Tanzania is the 13th largest country in Africa and the 31st largest in the world. In comparative terms, our country is actually under-populated.
The arable land that our country is blessed with, the natural resources that are hugely abundant, are enough to more that cater for our “modest” population.
Yes, for the fact is, our deprivations are not a consequence of having too many people; rather, they are about the lack of capacity to build a better economy.
That is why there is a popular school of thought which say, countries like Tanzania should mostly, agitate, not for reduction of family sizes, but for increased productivity in all sectors and more equitable sharing of resources. We agree with the view.
However, we hasten to add that the discretion for each family to determine the number of children it seeks to have should not disregard the fact that parents have a cardinal duty to give their offspring a decent upbringing.
It is for this reason that we say, our family planning drive should gear at reminding couples that each one of them need to have the number of children it can adequately provide for. That must be the key message, staring from the grassroots level.
Surveys indicate that women who have attained secondary school education and above have on average 3.2 children each, while their primary school counterparts boasts 5.6. That is a wide margin.
It means family control campaigns should mostly target our people in the rural areas, where semi-literacy reigns, with people still considering every arrival of a child as a blessing irrespective of one’s material wellbeing.
Each family needs to weigh its options as it seeks to reproduce itself. Why, at the end of the day, government policies and pledges to provide free education and free medical care notwithstanding, the onus of preparing a child for a quality and secure future rests squarely on parents.
However, we reiterate, greater preoccupation for us all—parents, parents-to-be, opinion makers and the government—must be increased productivity and equitable sharing of resources, not cutting down family sizes.