A local non-profit organization, Health Development Initiative, has presented findings of a study on validation of accessibility of condoms in secondary schools.
According to the findings, in some areas, condom is an off limit subject except in anti-HIV clubs.
Some local leaders have argued that condom accessibility is not a priority in educating a child, basing on the research.
“70 percent of the respondents argued that availability and accessibility of condoms for free in the school is a good idea, but should be limited to students in S5-S6,”reads part of the research presentation.
On the issue of access to condoms, the research found that in some areas, they were difficult to access and that there were no free condoms in schools, a situation that increases the risk of pregnancy.
Many believe that it is important to access condoms in secondary schools for the sake of saving the lives of children.
While some respondents consider condom availability in school as life saving, others believe it would encourage students to be sexually active.
The research study was meant to determine the scope of condom access among secondary school students, contraception use, among other objectives.
“Six secondary schools were purposively sampled; four boarding, two in rural and two in urban areas and two day schools in urban areas. Students, teachers, school leaders and parents were among the focus groups that were asked questions regarding sexual reproductive education and condom accessibility in secondary schools,” states the research.
In a communiqué circulated to the media from the Ministry of Health, the government was in favour of education on reproductive health and not condoms accessibility in schools.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, stated that the government was in favour of sexual reproductive health education and not accessibility of condoms in schools.
“The Ministry of Health would like to make it clear that our position as a government is to encourage sexual reproductive health education in our secondary schools, aimed at opening the minds of our youth to the dangers associated with early sexual encounters as opposed to distribution of condoms,” read her statement in part.
“The young generation still in secondary school should be mindful of the dangers associated with early sexual encounters and strive to adhere to the preventive measures recommended within reproductive health education curriculum, which will provide life skills and empower them to say no to sex until the right time”.
This was the first time the government had come out to state its official position on the matter.
However, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Medical Council (RBC), Dr Anita Asiimwe, had earlier supported that accessing condoms could help reduce the risk of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies among students.
She quoted statistics which show that as many as 614 school girls got pregnant last year alone, a proof that some students engage in unsafe sex.
However, Edward Munyamaliza, the Chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said that accessibility of condoms should not be viewed as a solution to unwanted pregnancies in secondary schools.
“We should focus on prevention through imposing discipline in schools and sexual reproductive health education instead of advocating for condoms in secondary schools,” Munyamuliza said.
He termed accessibility of condoms in secondary schools as horrible, saying it would only destroy our community and our culture.
HDI is a registered NGO that was founded in 2005 to organise and promote community-based healthcare development in Rwanda.
The IREX-funded study was conducted under the Rwanda MCC Civil Society Strengthening Project outreach grant programme.