Fr George Adimike
As the nations wrestle with COVID-19, the evaluation of its ramifications on human society forms the crucial part of the efforts. These efforts are adjudged adequate to the degree of its focus on society as a whole. Precisely, the measure of its toll on the health of nations measures its impact on other structures of society. Without a doubt, the current pandemic impacts society in many and several ways, in negatives and positives alike. From a social analysis, for instance, a baby boom is a compelling forecast as part of its ramifications. Months of lockdown might have provided an opportunity for couples to rediscover their love, reignite their marital fire or explore their conjugal potencies in response to grace, necessity or boredom. On the contrary, many couples might have reinforced their aversions and mismanaged their misunderstandings. In the process, some might have likely torn their marital certificate physically, spiritually or emotionally. Some narratives relative to the COVID-19 pandemic are alluringly arresting. Yet, it remains a trying period for many families and a reality that calls for an effort to proffer effective management measures in the whole global efforts.
The prospective baby boom will likely raise the question: does a baby boost or bust economy? This fact calls for an interrogation of demographics relative to the economy. Policymakers will experience hard times with their thinking caps on in the inescapable quest to reconcile ethical measures and socio-economic metres. Worthy of note, since the times of Rev Thomas Robert Malthus, population has arguably become the mainstream in the economic discourse. While many judge large population negatively as a liability, others see it as an asset. For those who consider it a burden, the baby boom is bad news, and for those who view it as an asset, it is good news.
For many nations who are drunk with the anti-natalistic ideology of ‘population-as-the-problem campaign’, a baby boom is a problem in the race for economic development. Some leaders in Africa listen to the population control soothsayers of the western nations, namely George Soros, Jeffrey Sachs, Bill Gates, and Rockefeller Foundation, among others.
These persons and corporate body put pressure on African leaders to adopt policies that put to check their population growth. It is hard to tell without an element of doubt whether these promoters do that with evil motives or misguided altruism. However, the simple fact remains that their diagnosis falls flat relative to the truth, and, therefore, constitutes mistaken solutions to African challenges. Babies are never the problem; they are gifts. Nations are poor because of multiple factors, including but not limited to geography, biogeography, bad policies, policy somersaults, lack of access to capital, corruption and poor policy implementation.
Within the context of the gift economy and humanity’s entrepreneurial vocation, population is a great asset. A child can never be a liability if a nation educates him/her such that the child’s in-born resources are effectively turned into capital. It takes a human person to make a difference because each baby comes into existence with ‘bread’ and ingredients for baking more loaves. If the structure supports such a child, he/she will not only eat his/her ‘bread’ but will produce loaves in abundance.
For the old lady, Europe, a possible baby boom is undoubtedly good news because it will signal a demographic spring from her demographic autumn. Because of the shortage of new births in Europe, there is a severe fear that in decades to come, immigrants will take over the land. So for the denizens, it is a ‘happy fault’ that COVID-19 would possibly provide the opportunity for a resurrection from the demographic autumn.
For Africa, the boom only reinforces the demographic springtime and imposes a responsibility on the leaders to maximize the positives of the gift. Every gift comes with a responsibility. The failure to respond to the duty imposed by the gift does not make it or the giver culpable. Instead, it makes those responsible for cultivating the gifts for maximum dividends irresponsible. A good education should be pursued aggressively to reap the demographic dividend relative to the demographic ramification of COVID-19. This education should focus on the whole person, taking cognizance of his intellective, affective and psychomotor dimensions. In other words, his openness to the Absolute, the reach towards the infinite and the constant search for meaning provide the rubric for this type of education. Hence, it sees the person beyond a reservoir of knowledge or a container of skills to being an elastic entity that grows with an abundance of knowledge. Humans should be exposed to the knowledge that goes beyond reading and writing to the one that develops the whole person. Education should aim at turning the human person into an agent of development and driver of societal transformation.
To achieve this, governments in Africa should increase the budget allocations to education, vote fund for researches, support different initiatives that promote education and fund religious and vocational groups that promote the education of the citizens. Governments should not see all other education providers as competitors but as collaborators with whom to build synergy for the overall development of the society. While the state has the responsibility to look into what her citizens receive as education to prevent fundamentalism, she should not interfere in the roles of the families and religious bodies in educating their children. In this way, subsidiarity informs the solidarity needed in educational administration. Government oversight should instead promote solidarity and build a synergy of a network of educational providers in a country.
The baby boom is, arguably and justifiably, a sort of demographic resurrection for the nations in the northern hemisphere. At the same time, it is an affirmation of the superabundance of God’s gift in the southern hemisphere. It is a gift and a responsibility. The failure to apply the responsibility dimension challenges the gift’s capacity to glow with grace. In order to unleash the benefits of the gift on society, the responsibility dimension should be taken seriously by families and nations. It is, precisely, because untrained children are not only a nemesis to the families but also the whole society. Education spells the path to reaping the COVID-19 demographic dividend. Many died, many were born, and COVID-19 has taught us a lesson, namely that life is a mystery of paradoxes made only meaningful in God.
• Fr Adimike writes from Anambra ([email protected])