A new policy paper by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has upheld that comprehensive sexuality education is an essential part of a good quality education that improves reproductive health and contributes to gender equality.
The report tagged “Facing the facts,” seeks to dispel social and political resistance to sexuality education in many countries, highlighting that children and young people should receive comprehensive sexuality education before they become sexually active.
This it says will protect them from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and promotes values of tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence in relationships.
Some parents, teachers and school administrators who spoke with The Guardian on the new report affirmed that the society would benefit immensely if schools would strictly follow the recommended guidelines.
Director of the GEM Report, Manos Antoninis, said the new policy paper presents the evidence of the benefits of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education.
Even children at the age of five need to understand basic facts about their body; think about family and social relationships; recognise inappropriate behaviour and identify abuse.
“It is time to face the facts. Comprehensive sexuality education is part and parcel of a good quality education, the achievement of good health outcomes and progress towards gender equality. Yet in many parts of the world, opposition to comprehensive sexuality education has not only halted progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights, but also reversed it.
“Globally, each year, 15 million girls marry before the age of 18, some 16 million 15-19 year olds and one million girls under 15 give birth. Young people moreover account for a third of new HIV infections among adults and across 37 low and middle-income countries, yet only approximately one third of people aged 15-24 years have comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission.
Antoninis continued: “More than one in 10 births are among girls between 15 and 19 years old. This not only spells the end of their education, but it is often fatal, with pregnancy and childbirth as the leading cause of death among this age group. Thus introducing comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum is key.”
Also, the paper among others recommended that scripted lessons where necessary should be made available to help teachers cover the subject correctly, since it has been discovered that lack of lesson plans or teaching materials that are gender and human rights sensitive and reflect contemporary realities, constitute problems for the teachers.
However, introducing comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum, Antoninis said is insufficient without adequate teacher training to bolster instructors’ motivation and confidence in addressing the full range of topics concerned.
For optimum result, the paper suggested that government and education managers cross the globe should invest in teacher education and support; make curricula relevant and evidence based; develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and ensure implementation; work with other sectors to bring about real change, notably with the health sector to link schools with health services and leverage funds; engage with community and parent organisations to overcome resistance that is not based on facts.
Director of Studies, Starfield College, Iju, Lagos, who lauded the report, said the issue of sexuality education should indeed be prioritised in homes and schools, saying there is a lot of interference in the lives of the contemporary youths.
Though he affirmed that parents and schools are not doing enough in the area of sexuality education presently, the new report he advised should be embraced by government and all education managers across the country in the interest of the Nigerian child as well as their future.
He said: “This issue worries us a lot as a school, and we are doing our best to ensure that the children kept in our care coexist and relate with one another in decent manners.
Dealing with sexuality education among teenagers is something schools should prioritise because of its grave implications. A lot needs to be done, particularly now that most Nigerian homes have abandoned their duties for economic reasons.
“So, while there is need for schools to step up their programmes around sexuality education, there is also a greater need for parents to go and do great home work on their children, counsel and remind them of the dangers of living irresponsible lifestyle. “
A parent, Mrs. Divine Uwakwe, said days are gone when parents should feel shy to talk about sexuality education to their children, cautioning that the technological evolution in the contemporary world has made it a necessity for parents and schools to heed to UNESCO’s call.
She said: “Over the years, using our generation as a case study (1980s), our parents were shy or appeared reserved to talk bout sex, let alone discuss it with their children. It is time! The time is now, the earlier we teach them sexuality education the better for the entire society. This is imperative considering all the negative happenings in today’s world coupled with the advanced technology and all it connotes.”
Also, literacy advocate and Founder, Flipbook Foundation, Belinda Nzeribe, said children should know the proper names for their body parts and be made to understand that their bodies should not be handled inappropriately.
“Secondly, guardians should also help children feel safe enough to talk to them about everything. Indeed children younger than five should have some awareness of their body parts, as long as they can talk. Otherwise, guardians need to be extra observant. And so, I support the idea that children should be given some age appropriate sexual education,” she said.
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