Time to Rethink Our Sex Education Approach

This past week a report in one of the Namibian national newspapers made a disturbing revelation of Namibian children as young as 10 years being among the thousands of people who sought family planning services with the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (Nappa) last year.

The newspaper quoted the Nappa’s executive director Bravo Linosi who described the statistics as shocking, adding that the number of girls between the ages of 10 to 25 seeking contraceptives has been on the increase in the past three years.

It’s shocking indeed. The reason that teenagers are seeking contraceptives is the sure sign that our kids are engaged in sex. And when they engaged in sex, it means they are also its suffering the harmful consequences – of falling pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

The problem of teenage pregnancy among schoolgirls is a major concern in region. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNDP), the regional figures are skyrocketing despite huge investments and refinement of countries policies and programmes.

In Namibia, despite efforts by governments over the past 25 years, teenage pregnancy rates remain high. According to Namibia Legal Assistance Centre report titled ‘Realising the right to education for all: School policy on learner pregnancy in Namibia’ teenage pregnancy rate in the country increased from 34 percent in 2012 to 36 by 2014.

In Namibia, one such risk factor in early child bearing is increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. It is also a well-known factor that adolescent pregnancy interferes with young women’s educational attainment, resulting in fewer job opportunities for young women.

In a report titled “Removing barriers to adolescents ,access to contraceptive information and services” the UNDF revealed that globally, 11 percent of all births were due to women aged 15-19 years  and an approximately 95 percent of teenage pregnancies occur in developing countries with 36.4 million women becoming mothers before age 18.

Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the world by 2013.  According the report births to teenage mothers account for more than half of all the births in this region: an estimated 101 births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19.

The debate on whether preventative measures such as making condoms  and other contraceptive available to students is a frequently divisive topic, as it inevitably brings up the issue of teenage sexual activity.

Those who oppose making condoms available to students frequently make critics that that will send the message to students that their parents and teachers are expecting them to engage in sexual activity.

The data provided by the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association this past week is a clear verdict that teenagers are already accessing contraceptives. But does that mean they are using contraceptives when engaging in sex?

Sex education is intended to inculcate self-discipline into our teenagers for them to delay sexual activities.

The proponent of sex education argues that young people who take highly effective sex education and HIV-prevention programmes tend to delay sex and have fewer partners.

More importantly, when these young people do become sexually active, they are more likely to use condoms and other contraceptive methods.

And I support this argument. But the responsibility cannot be left to teachers alone. The expansion of sex education programme must bring in parents as well. We still have a large number of parents, who are of the conviction that it is the government duty to teach enrol their children in sex education.

There is a need for the new sex education approach that encourages the culture where discussion of sex, sexuality and contraception is permitted. Former first lady Penehupifo Pohamba has in the past urged parents to talk to their children about sex matter at a tender age.

Pohamba stressed that the sex education effort should start in the parental home, and that parents ought to tell their children “nothing but the whole truth”.   She once remarked that: “We don’t tell our children the whole truth. We don’t start when they are very young”.

Our children know what sex is all about, despite the myth that talking to them at young age makes more them sexual active. They are accessing this information from sex content on the Internet, through the very smartphones that we bought them, or computers at the library.

The purpose of sex education that includes teachers, parents and the community at large is to provide them with correct information, and explain to them the possible dangers of engaging in irresponsible sex.

Until then…..

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