A Visit from Ghanaian Provost:
Obstacles to Fertility Reduction in Ghana
By Nikki Osei
Ghana, much like the United States, faces high fertility rates. However, unlike the United States, the Ghanaian economy cannot withstand such high rates of childbirth.
During a recent trip to Ghana, Bowie State College of Arts and Sciences Dean George Acquaah met with Dr. Daniel Buor, Provost of the College of Art and Social Sciences at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
At their first meeting, Dr. Buor shared with Dr. Acquaah about the issue of high fertility rates in their homeland. On Oct. 2, Dr. Buor brought that information to the students of Bowie State.
There are developmental challenges in Ghana pertaining to extreme population growth. Dr. Buor began his lecture with an image of an African woman who was pregnant, had an infant on her back and a toddler at her side. This image depicted the lifestyle in which many African women live. Ghana has a fertility rate of 5.2, according to the World Bank, which is actually lower than most other West African countries. Niger's fertility rate is 7.2. There is a steady decline in HIV/AIDS with the rate being 1.7. One would think due to an increased knowledge of sexual health and STDs, fertility rates would be lower. Instead rates are higher, with teenage pregnancy accounting for 23 percent of all live Ghanaian births.
So what causes such high rates of fertility? Factors including age at first marriage, age at first sexual intercourse, and low contraception use contribute heavily, Dr. Buor said. Women lacking an education have fertility rates of 6.0. Those that have been educated tend to have smaller family sizes, as they believe that having children may hinder their academic endeavors.
Elevated fertility rates can also be attributed to the fact that mortality rates are high in Third World countries, hence fertility is encouraged, Dr. Buor said. In the event a child passes away, others remain that can carry on the family legacy. Many families conceive and have children until they have a few males that will carry on the family name. Having several children is also seen as a sign of prestige. The more children a man has, the better he is perceived by the community. Economic factors further encourage Ghanaians to reproduce. Once the children are old enough, they work on the farms and contribute to the family income.
Seventy five percent of Ghanaians are knowledgeable about contraception, 72 percent see contraception as an acceptable means of prevention, yet only 25 percent of the population actually uses contraception, Dr. Buor said, adding that this is due to the aforementioned reasons, but also because many of the Ghanaian husbands refuse to use condoms for the same reasons many American men do: condoms diminish sexual pleasure, so they would rather risk having another child, than sacrifice their sexual experience.
There are several organizations in place making efforts to contain fertility rates including the Planned Parenthood of Ghana and the Committee on Christian Marriage and Family Life (CMFL), Dr. Buor said. Through electronic and print media, these messages are conveyed, but those in rural areas may not have access to this information.
Education is the key in decreasing fertility rates in Ghana and other Third World countries. As long as there is a lack in education or outlets in which information can be obtained, the rates will continue increase, Dr. Buor said.
This presentation relates to the United States as its residents are facing similar statistics with an increasing population; however U.S. adults have resources available to them in the form of medical assistance, welfare, etc., Dr. Buor said. The lack of medical resources in Ghana, in conjunction with an abundance of live births per year, has left these families struggling. In turn, the children have fewer advancement opportunities due to the environment they are born into. It is time for a change.
There is an opportunity for Bowie State students to travel and study abroad in Ghana. The University is working on making financial aid available to those students interested. For more information, please contact the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bowie State University.