In the 60s, our forefathers had several children because their major occupation then was farming. They believed that having many children would assist them in farming since mechanised farming was not in existence then. It is, however, amazing and surprising that in this part of the world, families who are not in the bracket of rich or better still, those who are average people have more than enough children than they can take care of.
When parents are asked why they prefer to have many children, most of them respond that they love children and that God has been taking care of them as they said they are gifts from God. Some of them quoted Genesis 1 verse 28 in the Bible, which says “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over…”
In a chat with LEADERSHIP Weekend, a man who has four children and is still planning to have more said, “I would have as many children as possible because my mother did the same thing and we all fend for ourselves to survive.”
The Director of Halifield Schools, Mrs. Halima Oke, a psychologist, said in an interview that the Nigerian government should look into how they can control birth rate as it is being done in China. She stated that this will reduce high level of poverty in the society. She was so passionate about the issue as she said that those who find it difficult to afford three square meals still want to have many children.
Mrs. Oke stressed that having more children affects the health of a woman, saying that such a woman would easily attain old age.
In an interview, a mother of four children, who did not want her name published, said that having many children is an insurance for old age. According to her, having the number of children you can adequately provide for is wisdom and it is the principal thing.
In his view, Mr. Tope Ige said, “Having more children at this period may be a consolation. This means that in a situation where the man is jobless, for instance, instead of thinking about unprofitable action that could lead to something suicidal he would sleep with his wife.
“Remember that an average African man dislikes condom. Also, family planning is alien to most people in this part of the world”, she added.
Another man who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend said, “In this part of the world, some people compete with nearly everything. They compete with others for number of children, cars, houses, etc. Some of our parents fell victim of this, which was why some of them ended up having between eight and 10 children.”
He added: “In our own generation, parents are wiser. Albeit, there are still some factors that would make a couple decide to have more than three children.”
The man said further that unfortunately, people still allow cultural belief to becloud their sense of thinking. “Some people have more than three children because they were particular about sex. But the reality does not set in until a few years later when the children start school”.
Another parent, Mr. James Badmus who spoke with our correspondent attributed lack of family planning to poor knowledge of family planning methods, and ‘sexual mistake’. He said that in most parts of Africa, faith and culture rationalise having too many children.
He said, “In some cultures, you don’t ‘count’ the number of children you have; in some faiths, polygamy is permitted, and having many children is not frowned at.
Poverty breeds more poverty. Poor parents are often incapable of other forms of recreation and fun apart from having sex.
“There is no serious government policy on population control in Nigeria. Hence, there is poor family planning education. For instance, in Kenya, population policy has changed from having few children you and the government can take care of because no matter how rich you are, you’ll still not build your own roads, hospitals, etc.
“In Nigeria, despite the largely unproductive population, people are still living with that outdated reasoning which Kenya has changed from. In some parts of the country, emphasis is placed on numeric political value, hence politicians there deliberately refuse to allow family planning education that can overturn their chances of electoral advantage,” he added.
In her contribution, Sarah Ntene said that Africans believe that their children are the ones that would take care of them in the future, and that the number of children you have will determine how you will enjoy in the future.
“Some people believe that the economy is not to be considered because as they say, ‘children come with provision for themselves’. If you follow the Bible, children are blessings from above and blessed is he who has his quiver full of them. This is what they use to back up their ideas. Some people also believe that family planning is a sin. Since God gave you the children, you shouldn’t restrict their existence,” she noted.
For Tayo Olasinde, the truth is plan your family, give birth to the number of children you can take good care of because you are going to give account on each of them at the end of the day. The Chinese government once came up with a policy of one child to a family due to over bloated population, but it is about to increase it to two children. All couples in China will in future be allowed to have two children.
“From a human-rights perspective, this is very good news,” says Patrick Gerland, a demographer with the United Nations (UN) Population Division in New York. But it will hardly have a major long-term effect on population growth in modern China, where many women are now more concerned about jobs and careers than is reconcilable with having a large family”, she added.
The one child-rule was introduced in 1979 to stop excessive population growth, at a time when China’s society was much less urbanized than it is today, and women were having 2.8 children on average. It is thought to have prevented 400 million births in a nation that now numbers 1.4 billion. Still, it has been relaxed in recent years: couples in which one partner comes from a one-child family are allowed to have a second child if they want.
The question is, will birth control be allowed in a complex society like Nigeria, where we have different ethics and culture. African so much belief in having children believing that it contributes to one’s success. But the current economic reality in Nigeria tends to point to the need for families to reduce the number of children they would have.