The government has announced plans to make sex education compulsory in all schools across the country as part of efforts to address teenage pregnancies.
Under the plan expected to start next academic year, secondary schools and higher learning institutions will have to teach teenagers about contraception, safer sex, relationships and critical thinking that will help them make informed decisions on matters of sexual relationships.
Dr. Mathias Harebamungu, the Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, announced this while addressing students of St. Aloys Secondary school in Rwamagana District, yesterday.
The minister was officiating at the launch of a nationwide campaign against teenage pregnancies.
It is themed: ‘I am a girl with a vision, I value my education, I say no to teenage pregnancy.’
Harebamungu said for the first time in schools, the hitherto optional curriculum covering sex and contraception in the context of relationships will be made compulsory.
He noted that previously schools only had to teach the fundamentals of reproduction, contraception and puberty in science lessons.
“Our curricula have been revised to accommodate sex education. Students from Senior One to university should learn the subject. It will help us build the nation by allowing girls to stay in schools,” Harebamungu said.
He said all efforts will be made to address teenage pregnancies, adding that a holistic approach to the issue was underway.
Harebamungu asked teachers to respect their professional code of conduct and desist from engaging in sexual relationships with their students.
“We are trying to address the challenges that stand in the way of girls’ education. We have set aside special rooms designed to assist the girls at school. It is a directive from the Ministry of Education. Girls will also access sanitary pads and counselling from elderly mothers,” he said.
Oda Gasinzigwa, the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, who presided over the function, reiterated the need to sensitise society to check teenage pregnancies. Gasinzigwa called upon all stakeholders to join the campaign to end teenage pregnancies.
“We have begun a crusade to fight teenage pregnancies. We have started with this province not because it has the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies but because it is committed to the fight. Many cases were first reported in this province, but the response of leaders was excellent,” she said.
Odette Uwamariya, the Governor of Eastern Province, said local leaders at all levels were determined to stop underage pregnancies.
“We have stepped up the campaign against it. We have conducted public trials of rapists and defilers. We have pushed the campaign to the grassroots so as to involve everybody,” she said.
There are no fresh statistics on teenage pregnancies, but 2011 figures from the Ministry of Education indicated that the Western Province had the highest number of underage pregnancies with 177 cases. It was followed by Northern Province with 141 cases, Southern Province had 130 cases, Eastern Province 110 cases and the City of Kigali City had 56 cases.
This shows that rural schools are more affected than urban schools.