Why sex education is crucial as schools reopen this year

CBC presents a golden opportunity for effective integration of Comprehensive Sexuality Education. [iStockphoto]

It has been a long holiday and the time to go back to school for our children is here.

Having shared an open community with this interesting lot, going back to school presents an interesting dynamic to them. This holiday has probably been one of the longest and with it, there has been time for the school-going lot to experience a lifestyle that won’t necessarily be available soon.

At the end of the current period, a concern arises on whether schools are ready to receive not just the pupils and students but also the physical, social and emotional changes anticipated to come along with them.

It is an interesting time in our educational system, with the 8-4-4 system edging closer to a full replacement by the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

It’s critical to ask ourselves what CBC has in stock for such periods, several reports have painted a concerning picture of adolescents and youths after a long holiday break. In the initial five months of 2023, there were 110,821 recorded pregnancies involving adolescents aged 10 to 19 (Kenya Health Information Systems).

Among these, 6,110 were observed in the age group of 10 to 14 years, while 104,711 were in the age range of 15 to 19. This figure is nearly half of the 2022 recorded pregnancies, which amounted to 260,734. The numbers in 2021 and 2020 were 316,187 and 331,549, respectively.

With such trends, it’s worrying to even contemplate what is to come, especially after long holidays, begging the question, do we have programmes in schools, designed to manage, counter, or mitigate this when schools open?

Biological changes linked with the sexual and reproductive maturation of school-age children are intertwined with diverse risks related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

These risks serve as indicators for unfavourable SRHR outcomes, including inadequate knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases and a prevalent trend of early sexual initiation among school-age children.

Promoting effective educational intervention will bolster the SRHR of children attending school by making them aware of the intricacies of their sexuality, through Comprehensive-Sexuality Education (CSE).

Research indicates that achieving CSE at an early stage and addressing SRHR needs, significantly predicts positive outcomes in school children. These favourable outcomes encompass delayed sexual initiation, child marriage, and a reduction in teenage pregnancies.

The developmental shifts in brain and behaviours of school children before their initiation into sexual activities and reproductive maturation provide distinct opportunities to implement educational interventions.

These interventions aim to encourage healthy attitudes and contribute to positive sexuality. CBC presents a golden opportunity for effective integration of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

It is thus our responsibility to find and promote effective educational interventions for CSE, thus eliminating the worry around reports of teenage pregnancies.

-The writer is an SRHR advocate at NAYA Kenya. X:@D_Oramisi