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The reality of sexuality: Schools are taking the wrong approach on sex education

By Immaculate Akello | Friday, Apr 21st 2017 at 09:43
African Population and Health Research Center Estelle Sidze releasing the sexuality Education in Kenya in new Evidence from three counties being Nairobi, Mombasa and Homa Bay Photo: Jenipher Wachie

One in every four high school student think that using condom during sexual activity is a sign of mistrust, a new research has revealed.

According to the study conducted by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) in conjunction with the Guttmacher Institute, only 41 per cent of sexually active teenagers between the years of 15 and 19 are currently using any contraceptive method, despite 93 per cent of them not intending to get pregnant.

This study on sexuality education which was conducted in 78 schools within Nairobi, Mombasa and Homa Bay counties suggest that the major reason for the low uptake of contraception is lack of comprehensive knowledge on the possible methods and how to access them.

“61 per cent of the 2,500 Kenyan students whom we talked to demonstrate that there is a decided lack of understanding and awareness about sexuality, sexual and reproductive rights, consent and how to best protect oneself against sexually transmitted infections (STIS) or unplanned pregnancy,” said APHRC Dr. Estelle Sidze.

According to the study, despite 3 out of 4 teachers reporting that they are teaching the full slate of topics that constitute a comprehensive approach to sexual education, only 2 per cent of the students surveyed expressed confidence that they are receiving information on the full range of topics from their teachers.

“The lack of comprehensive knowledge on this topic depicts the kind of sexual education that these teenagers receive. This is even lower among high school students,” added Sidze.

Less than one in every five students said they learned about different contraceptive methods, how to use them and where to get them, even though equipping adolescents with knowledge is a crucial component of sexuality education, indicates the report.

The study also points out on the inherent contradictions amongst the adolescents concerning consensual sex as a third of female students and more than a half of their male counterparts believe believes that when a girl says no to sex, more often than not, they really mean yes. At the same time, nearly half of female and 70 per cent of male students believe that protected and consensual sex is good.

According to standards set by the United Nations and other relevant international agencies, comprehensive sexuality education should cover a range of topics fitting in 5 categories: HIV/STI prevention, contraception and unintended pregnancy, values and interpersonal skills and; gender and sexual reproductive rights.

These study which was carried out early this year also found out that abstinence-only education programmes show little evidence in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

“Most teachers focus on abstinence as the only and best method to prevent pregnancy and STIs, the reality, however is that, more than a third of the students aged between 15 and 17 are already sexually active and thus the need to equip them with information and skills to do so safely,” said Guttmacher Institute Melissa Stillman.

Stillman said majority of the teachers fail in conveying information to their students as they use contradictory, fear-induced or judgmental messages to teach sexuality education. She also blamed teachers for the low sexuality knowledge among students saying that 37 per cent of teachers are still embarrassed to teach sexuality education topics while more than 60 per cent strongly condemn sex hence failing to impart the right information.

“Lack of attention to critical, sensitive topics and the negative perspective from which many teachers cover some topics may in part be attributable to the low training and support that they receive,” said Stillman.

She urged the government to support teachers in receiving training, and providing them with resources that enhance their knowledge and build their confidence in providing sexuality education to the students.

Kenya joined a contentious regional push in 2013 to expand access to comprehensive, rights based and sexuality education starting in primary school. However, since then, full implementation of this initiative has been slow and unyielding.

This report is recommends that policy makers and other bodies involved in the review of the Kenyan curriculum explore how best to improve the comprehensiveness of existing curricula and incorporate information and skills students need to achieve healthy sexual reproductive lives, prevent sexual violence and avoid negative health outcomes.

“As part of curriculum reform efforts, care should be taken to incorporate age-appropriate, accurate and non-judgmental sexuality education into the skills curriculum, including how to practice safe sex and prevent unintended pregnancy,” emphasized Stillman.

She said these efforts would solve the many risky behaviours that young people engage in.

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