Today’s population growth is rightly called ‘Population Explosion.’ An explosion is a sudden outburst that often gets people by surprise and over which there is no control. Between 1959 and 2000, the world’s population increased from 2.5 billion to 6.1 billion people. According to United Nations projections, the world population will be between 7.9 billion and 10.9 billion by 2050 as per the growth that is seen today. Most of this growth is taking place in the developing countries. Surely it is a threat to the living and those yet unborn.
Monitor newspaper on 22 October 2016 in the article Uganda’s population to hit 102 million by 2050. The population growth pace in the past few years has been an addition of two million children every year. That is in average every woman or household has about seven children. Now the pertinent question is, ‘Are we prepared to care for growing number of children and youth today and in the near future?
This population is mostly rural, illiterate and live below poverty line. The illiteracy rate in Uganda is 67.1 which are lower than our neighbours, Tanzania and Kenya. Most of this illiterate population is women. Rural population’s access to education, healthcare, and other social service is very much wanting. Given to this statistics how are we going to reach the middle income status by 2020 as it is often spoken of by the elite politicians and government technocrats?
The World Population Report of 2016 also mentions that today we have 125 million 10 year olds in the world. Of course most of these preteens are in the developing world. In Uganda children below the age of 10 are over 25%. (According to Uganda Demographic Profile 2016 children aged 0-14 years are: 48.26% (male 9,223,926/female 9,268,714). This section of population together with adolescents is always in the receiving end. They depend on the small percentage of income providing population, often with a meagre income. We can foresee a youth with crisis!
Adolescent period—teenage 13 years to 19 years is a precarious one. In this period the growing youngsters are in need of not only education and other sustenance, but also they need emotional, social and spiritual sustenance for their integral growth. It lays a heavy burden on the individual parents, families, educational setting and other social institutions. The report rightly says, “The problem with a fast-growing population is not the growth itself, but “rapid, unplanned growth…” A reader laments, “In Uganda no one is worried as we say ‘we’ll cross the bridge when we get there!’ No planning at all.”
Caring for children and youth is not easy anywhere, in developed as well as in underdeveloped nations. In the rapidly changing world it is even worse. The changing trends are unpredictable and we always do not have solutions to modern problems and newer needs. Recently a professor in an elite American university said to me, “I don’t like to be a youth today. They just have too many problems. There is no joy of growing. The future is very ambiguous.”
Adolescence is defined as ‘the psychological response to the biological event of puberty within a particular social/environmental/cultural context.” Now the question given to the population explosion and the unmet needs of the population what kind of a context and growth environment are we going to create for the growth of our children?
A situation that is full unmet needs create anxiety and hostility leading to low self-esteem. That further becomes an obstacle for integral formation of young people, thus creating delinquent juveniles. It is a high time we put in order the current situation before we plan for the future.
The policy makers and representatives of different ministries often mention the following implementation challenges as seen in The Adolescent Girls Vulnerability Index: Guiding Strategic Investment in Uganda by, The Population Council, Inc. 2013, p.92:
We have so many policies, but you go on the ground and they have not reached the community. They end in our offices. Policy dissemination is a problem. They just lie on the bookshelves and collect dust. There are so many policies and they are not harmonized. The whole system is getting more and more fragmented.
I don’t see the connection between policy development at national level and formulation at district level. Districts have policies and by-laws, but we don’t see the coordination between levels. There is a feedback mechanism lacking for communication at all levels.
There is simply no funding and so there can be no implementation. We need to fix infrastructure and training to mitigate youth vulnerabilities; the answer lies in the use of government revenue and where we allocate it. Government and donors need to get serious and need to compel government to spend money on priority sectors.
We need strong databases to capture info by district, region, and by cases, which we are not able to do so much now with current systems. We need to harmonize systems so we don’t need to go to different ministries to get data…we need a central, harmonized database with data by age group and geographic location.
Let us remember and warn ourselves, ‘an uncared for children and young people’ are a dangerous to society and it is a taste of “explosion” that population explosion brings.
Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB