MAGAZINE: Tackling High Child Maternal Rate

MAGAZINE: Tackling High Child Maternal Rate
  • PublishedFebruary 23, 2018


In spite of the downturn in Nigeria’s economic situation, the report by the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) that 20,000 babies were born on January 01, 2018 was quite alarming. SOLA JACOBS reviews the effect of this development in the State of Osun and recommends the way forward.

Despite the perennial petrol scarcity which has become an annual December package for Nigerians, year 2017 could be said not to be too bad, in as much as only the living could tell the story. The year was a challenging one, especially with the realities of economic recession and all the lessons learnt as a nation.

The cheering news is that Nigeria is out of recession as announced by the Minister of Finance, though economically vulnerable. Many variables pointed to this fact.

In the New Year, the most amusing news was the post by the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) that 20,000 babies were born on January 01, 2018. If only for the first day of the year, 20,000 new babies were born, in government hospitals and health centres, without mentioning those in private and faith based institutions, it simply means 2018 is a fruitful year and a year of multiplication. With this record, Nigeria is placed second to India in terms of birth rate, with its attendant problems, such as high rate of poverty, crime and unemployment.

The most intriguing part of the news is that the State of Osun tops the list of child maternal rate, which affirms that more procreation by young girls is on the increase in the state. It is an outstanding news as well that the state has been declared the second wealthiest state in the country, going by the development of infrastructure and other economic indices.

To a sheer mind, where there is increase in child maternal rate, first, it is a narrative of under-development; secondly, it could portray low level of educational attainment, because if the girl child is in school, there is that probability that she will not be quickly put in a family way.

Also, in an environment with prevalent rate of poverty, girl child rights are always sacrificed for family comfort, as they get engaged in menial jobs to sustain the family. In the process, they are exposed to rape, and also, unavoidable but unwanted relationships that could lead to pregnancy. More so, religious fanatism and bigotry in some cases, could lead to a girl child becoming mother at a very tender age.

In an environment where negative cultural values are exhibited without considering the effects of such beliefs and norms, underage pregnancy could be experienced in such vicinity. Why would Osun take the lead in girl child maternal rate? Is it that the residents are not educated? Is it the prevailing economic situation? Could it be that the rights of girl child is often violated with prevailing cases of rapes and non-prosecution of rape suspects or withdrawal of cases by plaintiffs?

Other questions one could not, but ask is that where is the increased in the child maternal rate in the three senatorial districts of the state and what is the basic factor for such development? What is the effects of the problem to the socio-political economic contribution of the affected age group both in the immediate and nearest future? What should the state government, non-governmental organisations and community leaders do to address the situation?

No one could outrightly go against the law of creation; multiply and subdue the earth is the command of the creator, but such multiplication must be productive.

Since the inception of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s government in the state, the educational sector has been witnessing rapid turnaround, as dilapidated learning environments have given way to state-of-arts schools. The free meal introduced in schools has also led to increase in the enrolment into public schools.

In tertiary education, admission soars, but only 45 per cent of students applied for Higher Diploma in Polytechnics after they had obtained OND. The majority of those who opted out of schools after they had obtained Ordinary National Diploma are girls, they abandoned school for marital vows or seek jobs to support their families.

The Osun Central and Osun West Senatorial Districts have the largest cases of girl child early marriage and the level of education and religion could be adduced to this development, while Osun East has less cases. An average family in Osun East Senatorial district has a degree holder, though their penchant for government job put them at disadvantage as other two senatorial districts have more artisans and traders than them. This had rather made them more informed as it is evidenced in their maternal rate control.

Self entrepreneurial skills and religion factors could be said to have increased the birth rate in other two senatorial districts with increase in child maternal rate, hence there is the need for the community, religious bodies government and non-governmental organisation to rise to the scourge of child maternal rate in this New Year.

Procreation is only for the responsible adult. A situation where a girl of 14 gives birth is only an expression of baby giving birth to babies; it is not only inhibiting the full development of such an individual, but it had further compounded the problem of the state that is battling with low productivity and creation of wealth. The state might be the wealthiest state in terms of infrastructural development, but there is need for an increase in the human development, as the state alone cannot cope with the provision of both infrastructure and human development.

The administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had done more in social welfare and empowerment of the people, and other notable safety nets programme, but there is more to do in girl child education to prevent child maternal rate, considering the pivotal role of women in national development. An ill-informed or uninformed girl will grow up to a full woman; hence, what would be her contribution to the upbringing of her children and society at large.

If the vicious circle of uninformed and uneducated women had to stop, this is the time to nip it in the bud, by preventing early-child marriage and rape that give birth to unwanted babies by ‘baby-mothers’.

Religious organisations, community leaders as well as non-governmental organisations need to step up campaign against girl child maternal rate with a renewed campaign against girl child maternal rate in the state. The state government and the Nigeria Police force need to enforce rape laws with the cooperation of the people, which will serve as deterrent to those who take pleasure in the illicit act. The faith-based institution’s cooperation is also required.

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