Tanzania’s President wonders why anyone would resort to birth control when education is free

Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli is encouraging Tanzanians to give birth to as many children as possible because ‘education is no longer expensive’. He vehemently discourages the use of contraceptives because the country is in need of more people.

According to Magufuli, “You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control? This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania. What we need to do is work hard so that when you have children, you can feed them, those who do not want to work hard are the ones supporting planned parenthood.”

As at 2016, the World Bank reported that 38.4 percent of women or their sexual partners were practising a form of contraception in Tanzania. This is an increase from 27 percent in 2010.

In 2016, a year after Tanzania introduced free public education for primary and secondary schools, Magufuli encouraged its citizens to give birth to as many children as possible because educating them would no longer be expensive. Unfortunately, the president ignores the other uses of these contraceptives other than birth control.

Several studies show that by regulating hormones, the pill can help prevent osteoporosis, a gradual weakening of the bones. Secondly, birth control pills which suppress ovulation help in the prevention of ectopic pregnancy. In addition, women who have endometriosis tend to have less pelvic pain and fewer other symptoms when they are on birth control pills. Also,  70 – 90 percent people see improvement in the symptoms of fibrocystic breast conditions when using oral contraceptives, medical experts say.

On the issue of Tanzania needing more people, data from the World Population Review shows that Tanzania has a fertility rate of 5 children per woman, with 1 birth happening every 14 seconds. The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey shows that the total fertility rate (TFR) per woman stood at 5.2 births per woman in 2015–16, down from 6.3 in 1992. This decline is partly linked to increased contraceptive use, as well as reduced infant mortality.

On 27 November 2015, the Tanzanian government issued a circular to implement the country’s 2014 Education and Training Policy, to ensure free primary and secondary education for all children. To ensure its effectiveness, funds of TZS18 billion ($7.9 million) were immediately disbursed, with TZS137 billion ($60 million) set aside to cover the full cost of guaranteeing free secondary education in the country.

The president insisted that the call to use contraceptives is a bad advice and that some of the people encouraging birth control contraceptives have ulterior reasons for doing so. According to him, sojourning the world had shown him that birth control can cause declining population growth and lack of a labour force.  Fortunately, free education is not a good excuse to reproduce at will when feeding, health care and the needs of the children would be a challenge.

The latest figures by the UN show more women than ever now use family planning such that projections for global population growth could be cut by as much as 1 billion over the next 13 years.