New tool to promote sex education among kids
Unlike teenagers, pre-teen children have lesser access to comprehensive sexual health education as Rwandan culture perceives them as too young to learn about the subject.
Girihirwe 12, a senior one student at Centre Scolaire Guerra, Butare, says she learnt about sexual reproductive health in a science lesson.
She, however, claims to have known about sex long before that from television. As a daring and intelligent girl who was eager to learn, she asked her mother about issues on sexual and reproductive health.
“Mum is a bit uncomfortable discussing such issues with me so most of the information I get is from television, friends and the few things we learn in school,” she said.
Gihirirwe says she is curious and would like to know more about the subject but notes that when she requests her elder sisters to open up, they always remind her that she is too young to do so.
Whereas it is considered taboo to discuss sex with children in the Rwandan culture, some people insist that they should instead be taught about on sexual and reproductive health.
Yvonne Uwayilingira, the Behavioural Change Communications Officer at Fertility Awareness-based Methods (FAM) Project, says that many programmes ignore children in this age group yet they are almost getting towards the adolescence.
She says that it is essential for such children to learn about these issues from the right sources especially parents and teachers instead of television.
Uwayilingira said the FAM project has developed a user-friendly manual targeting pre-teen children that teaches about puberty, the changes experienced while growing and the whole aspect of sexual and reproductive health.
“This manual is user friendly for children at this age category. The language is simple enough for them to understand. Such written material helps the youth to be prepared when they become adolescents,” she said.
She says that the manual would be distributed to different schools in all the three official languages used in the country including French Kinya-rwanda and English. Uwayilingira says many reproductive health programmes neglect this age group while most parents are too uncomfortable to discuss the subject with their children.
John Byamukama, a science teacher at Kigali Parents School says the pre-teen stage is the right one for children to learn about reproductive health.
“We teach children about reproduction when they are in their primary six when they are around 11 and 13 years of age. Most of them aren’t really shocked because they probably already know about these things. This is the right age because their bodies start experiencing changes.”
Byamukama adds that the children are also taught about other issues such as family planning and contraception methods.
A mother of three, Rita Gashumba, 34, says children should learn about these issues early enough so as to be fully prepared while experiencing biological changes in their bodies.
“Children these days start their menstruation periods as early as nine years of age. It’s therefore advisable to teach them about the changes in their bodies early enough. The information should be age-appropriate and not really about sex but adolescence,” she advises.
Gashumba urges parents to play their role and talk to their children about these issues instead of leaving all these to teachers.
Contact email: maria.kaitesi[at]newtimes.co.rw