I would like to commend the Ministry of Education officials for coming up with the policy to make sex education compulsory in high schools and higher institutions of learning. According to The New Times edition of Friday, February 14, D. Mathias Harebamungu, the minister in charge of primary and secondary education made the remarks during the launch of a nationwide campaign against teenage pregnancies at St. Aloys Secondary School in Rwamagana district.
According to the minister, the policy will take effect next academic year and its objective is to curb teenage pregnancies by creating awareness to students about contraception, safer sex, relationships and critical thinking.
In my view, this is a move in the right direction. Once the policy is implemented, it will go a long way in empowering the students most especially the girls to achieve their full potential.
The policy is premised on grounds that many girls have fallen victims of teenage pregnancies and as a result, have dropped out of school. This is absurd because when they get out school prematurely, they lose a lot as individuals and the nation also loses since their contribution to national development is hampered.
In addition to the laws that are already in place regarding defilement, it is important to have mechanisms that empower the girl-child to become assertive and be able to reject sexual advances from men.
Many of the girls who are taken advantage of, have low self-esteem which makes them vulnerable to temptations. They do not believe in themselves and they are always at the mercy of lustful men who manipulate them for their selfish interests. Sex education comes in handy to make the girls aware of their ability to exercise self-control for their own safety and future wellbeing.
The fact that a big number of teenage girls get pregnant when they are still at school implies that they are also at a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because they involve themselves in unprotected sex. The problem goes beyond pregnancy and that is why sex education should be provided in schools so as to make the young people become conscious of all the dangers of pre-marital sex.
It is common knowledge that many parents feel shy to talk to their children about issues of sex yet the adolescents experience lots of changes in their bodies which influence their behaviour. The hormonal changes compel many of them to indulge in sex and consequently mess themselves up.
Many girls are lied to that the onset of menstruation means that they are ready for sex and some are even told that they can get involved in unprotected sex without getting pregnant. Worse still, the current generation of young people is over exposed to the Internet which has a variety of harmful pornographic material. So, young people are at great risk if adequate sex education is not provided to them.
Sex education can be offered in form of regular counselling sessions conducted by trained teachers or counsellors such that learners get the right information. If teachers are not trained in adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS counselling, they may not be able to adequately sensitise the young people.
Drama shows are effective in creating awareness to the young people about sex. A section of students in a given school can act plays that showcase the dangers of irresponsible sexual behaviour and the benefits of self-control. The shows may be in form of skits to minimise costs. Drama is very effective because it appeals to many students given the fact that it is always accompanied by music and dance.
I strongly believe that sex education will help the young people to enhance self-esteem, assertiveness and self-control which in turn will enable them develop a sense of purpose.
The writer is a teacher at Riviera High School