The delicate teen-condom question

The recent revelation that over 600 pregnancy cases were reported in secondary schools last year, has laid bare what we all along knew but for obscure reasons chose to keep as an open secret.The disturbing figures have sent tongues wagging. As expected the blame game between parents and school heads has ensued.

The recent revelation that over 600 pregnancy cases were reported in secondary schools last year, has laid bare what we all along knew but for obscure reasons chose to keep as an open secret.

The disturbing figures have sent tongues wagging. As expected the blame game between parents and school heads has ensued.

 It was however refreshing to read in this paper, this week, that the Rwanda NGO Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion and Health Development Initiative, Rwanda have opened the debate on how best to address this challenge that risks to deprive the young ones a worthwhile future.

These organisations have come up with a suggestion: Make condoms available in secondary schools.

They portend the campaign to provide condoms and contraceptives to help stem the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies should go along with campaigns like abstinence.

The suggestion has attracted mixed reactions from parents and educationalists alike.

Those against it portend that providing secondary school students with condoms is akin to openly condoning immorality in schools.

However they forget one thing; if these students can get pregnant then they are already engaging in premarital sex, unprotected sex!

There is something uncanny about sex. In our society it has long been considered a taboo for parents to discuss the subject with their children. 

One thing is clear, despite the reluctance on the part of parents and society in general, children have learnt about sex albeit in the wrong way.

The big question is for how long will this hold with the unsettling truth that children as young as 15 are now actively engaged in sex.

Can parents afford to continue burying their heads in the sand as their children’s futures are cut in their prime? The insinuation that by making condoms available in secondary schools promotes immoral behavior should be given second thought.

The increasing number of pregnancies is testament that they are engaging in risky, premarital, unprotected sex anyway.

The country will not be reinventing the wheel in this approach. The initiative has been rolled out in schools in Europe and America with positive results.

Back home, in universities, confidential access to condoms has been promoted to curb cases of unwanted pregnancies and reduce the incidence of HIV/Aids.

The reaction from politicians is encouraging. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo, is on record for backing the plan aimed at curbing teenage pregnancies and other sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/Aids.

He also rightly calls for responsibility on the part of parents to talk about issues to do with reproductive health and sexuality.

Parents have to start talking about sexuality and reproductive health without any inhibition because it is now a matter of life and death. The issue of providing condoms should be looked at in context.

We have three options here: abstinence-only programs, safer sex education, and making condoms available in schools. Advocating for programs that cover both abstinence and contraception should be debated.

As expected, for religious or moral reasons, some people may strongly oppose making of condoms available to schools, and both their beliefs and the community conflicts that might ensue should be openly discussed.

burkepal@gmail.com

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