WHETHER to or not to teach sex education in lower levels in school is a question that many African countries have grappled with over the decades.
A handful of taskforces on educational reform in different African countries have advised that adolescents be exposed to sex education.
However, the recommendations of these taskforces have met vehement resistance especially from religious groups that think the subject could corrode and torpedo the children’ morals.
As if adding an insult to an injury, some religious groups have in the recent past made scathing attacks on school systems, accusing them of failing to proportionately train their learners in the moral realm.
Teachers, they claim, are holed up in syllabus coverage and furbishing the academic results of their schools while neglecting the steadily deteriorating moral standards of students.
To some extent, I agree with some of the criticisms hurled at teachers. Indeed, many teachers in a many African schools have negated the concept of ‘educating the whole child’ and focused on just producing grades. Students who fail in exams are regarded as failures yet passing exams are not everything in life.
I even agree with wilder allegations that some teachers only teach topics that are likely to be tested in national examinations and leave out the rest that are crucial in inculcating additional skills in the students. Are teachers turning students into robots or programmable examination answering machines?
We cannot claim to have education systems if all the facets of education are not impressed upon the learners. If we agree that education is the harmonious development of the mental, physical and social powers, let us strengthen the social arm of education by introducing sex education in the curriculum.
An issue that has caused ripples in this debate is the question of when to introduce the subject. Scholars differ on the exact age but I ardently support the age of 12 years because I believe it is ideal.
On the onset of adolescence, normally at an average age 12 years for boys and girls, so many physiological changes occur in the bodies of the adolescents that they should be educated about. How to handle the physiological changes should be elaborated by both teachers and parents.
If we all bury our heads in the sand, our education products, systems and cultures shall be mere mirages and laughing stocks in the postmodern age.
The question, where did the rain begin to beat us, posed by Chinua Achebe should linger in our minds. The African pre-colonial informal education though primitive, as it were, never had had a myriad of challenges that the current education systems are faced with. Are we getting any better then?
By not talking about sexuality with our children, how many juvenile pregnancies have we failed to control? How many HIV infections have occurred while our eyes are closed? Can the number of school dropouts be controlled while our lips are glued together?
I have no qualms about asking the African society to come out of its cultural cocoon and face the reality that stares at us. Treating topics related to sex and the reproductive system as a taboo is tantamount to exterminating the future society and abdicating our core duty of creating a new human dispensation characterized by sexual purity, personal life responsibility, less human suffering and enduring bliss.
Discussions on sustainable development will remain irrelevant as long as measures to create and nurture a sexually responsible human race are frustrated. There can never be sustainable development in an HIV positive generation. State resources wasted in AIDS campaigns can tarmac several kilometers of roads.
Parents and teachers alike have the responsibility of mapping the future of the young generations. The teacher should not be left alone in this duel.
The current crop of parents has abandoned parental duties and delegated them to house girls and television. Recent research has indicated that children spend more time on television than talking to their parents. As a result, a TV culture and generation is fast and steadily proliferating and even mutating. The result- God knows!
Adolescence needs demystification. The only way out is to slide out of our timid and cowardly cultural skins and lay the truth about sex bare for adolescents to fathom.