|Introduction to the Population Education Leaders Guides (FAO)|
For whom is this set of population education materials intended?
These population education materials are meant for use with existing groups of rural youth in Africa. They are designed as a guide for the group leader, to assist him or her in including population-related ideas into the normal activities of the youth group. To make this easier, the suggested activities, which are the main part of the leaders guides, are varied in nature and easily combined with a wide variety of other activities. They are intended to be of value and interest to such varied groups as rural youth cooperatives, church associations, the scouting movement, national political youth groups, young farmers' associations, etc. It is up to the group leader to decide how to use the guides and how the activities will be included in the normal group meetings. Some leaders may wish to change some activities to make them more appropriate to their own youth group. Sometimes the leader may like to involve another person (called a resource person) to add interest and support the activities suggested in the guides (see page 20). The guides are suggestions only, not a set of directions that must be followed exactly.
What do we mean by population education?
By population education we mean a learning process that enables people to understand how rapid population growth affects their quality of life or standard of living. The goal of population education is to give people enough information to be able to make responsible decisions about family size in a way that is personally meaningful and socially relevant.
Why is population education important?
Over the past few decades, the populations of many developing countries have increased very rapidly. People are the most important resource of any nation, but when the size and growth rate of the population exceed the ability of the nation to reach and maintain a reasonable quality of life for its people, then instead of being a source of strength, population becomes a weakness.
When the population of a country grows too quickly, it puts heavy pressure on natural resources. Agricultural land is often overused and land which is not really suited for cropping is cleared for agricultural use, resulting in the erosion and depletion of the soil. Forests are cut at an alarming rate -much faster than new ones are created. Water, already in short supply in many areas, becomes even scarcer and may often become polluted as well.
It is often possible to increase crop yields using new varieties and modern methods. But food production cannot easily be increased as fast as the population is increasing in many countries. The population of a village may double every 25 years, but it is rarely possible to double food production every 25 years.
TOTAL WORLD POPULATION SINCE THE YEAR 1800
Social services such as education and health facilities also become overburdened. Malnutrition and disease increase, employment opportunities, especially for youth, fall further and further behind demand, and crime and violence spread.
Because of this challenge to the development of the country, many governments are now preparing policies and programmes to slow down the growth of their populations. Although policies may be developed by governments however, the actual decisions which influence the population growth of a nation are made by individuals and families. for "the good of the nation" but it may be easier if they can see that their action will also result in direct benefits to themselves. Therefore, one of the most important parts of an effort to reduce the population growth rate of a nation is a programme of education on the effects of rapid population growth on individual and village life, and ways in which population growth can be controlled.
Should population education programmes be for adults or children?
At first, population education programmes were designed only for adults - often together with family planning efforts. Soon it became clear however, that population education would be more likely to be effective if the ideas were also taught to young people as they began to make decisions about their careers and families, but before they actually began having children of their own.
As a result, population education was added to school curricula in many areas. But in many parts of the developing world, very few young people actually finish school and many never attend school at all. In Africa, for example, less than 10 percent of all youth complete secondary school. This means that most young people, especially those in the rural areas where the drop-out rate was highest, do not have access to population education information.