Reality check: Why it’s time to introduce sex education in schools
By Bosco Marita
| April 24th 2019
The advocates of sexual education in school have faced insurmountable challenges, ranging from legal to religious, in their pursuit to establish responsible sexual knowledge among the youths. Perhaps painting a picture of society viewing sex education as a taboo not worth public discussion.
In 2014, former Nominated Senator Judith Achieng Sijeny sponsored a Reproductive Health Care Bill that sought to provide primary and secondary school going children with unhindered access to comprehensive sex education.
The Bill ruffled feathers among religious leaders, some parents and teachers, who criticized it for fear that it will eventually erode the morality of school going children.
The then Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said he will not allow what he termed as “immorality” to be instituted in school. The Bill was trashed by Senate.
Contrary to the arguments made by legislatures and religious leaders on the matter, the rate of sexual debut among the youth and teenage pregnancies has ballooned over the years, raising an alarm of a runaway moral decay among the youth.
A research conducted by Trends and Insights for Africa (TIFA), between January 25 and April 3 in seven Nairobi and Kiambu schools, lays bare a myriad of issues that leads to the increased number of pregnancies, sexual debut and unsafe sex among teenagers.
According to the findings of the research, more than half of the secondary school going children have watched pornography. 6 out of ten boys admitted, while four out ten girls did the same.
According to TIFA, “the media is the main source of information about sex, with internet films and videos being top of the list.” The finding acknowledged that religious leaders and parents have failed to give children sex education leaving them to seek answers from the internet.
The findings also revealed that 25 per cent of the students have already had sexual encounters, with 73 per cent of them at the age of 13, while 17 per cent below the age of 13.
Shockingly, 70 per cent of the students stays at home during the holiday, raising eyebrows on where the remaining 30 per cent could be spending their time and under whose care.
Furthermore, 17 per cent engage in sex in the same period, 37 per cent go for sleepovers, 67 per cents visit boyfriends or girlfriends and 67 per cent engages in clubbing drugs and alcoholic drinks.
During the supervision of 2018 KCPE exams, George Magoha expressed his disappointment on the number of teenage mothers who were struggling to balance between parenthood and their education.
To Magoha, sex education was and is still inevitable, a matter he emphasized during his vetting exercise at City Hall.
“I know that my church has a strong stand on this (sex education). But as a top-grade Surgeon and having worked at KNEC and seen how children at 11,12 years-old getting pregnant, some of them by teachers, and when you check the internet the pornographic sites are open, I ask myself, what are we doing?” he said.
According to Magoha, moral decay had reached its rooftop hence the need for adolescents to be given proper knowledge on how to manage their sexual behaviours rather than just finding they were pregnant.
Just like Judith Achieng’s Bill, Magoha’s proposal was not welcomed by many. Religious leaders remain adamant on the matter, and with no legal backing, it was wise of anyone championing for it to shelve the idea.
The 2018 Kenya certificate of primary education shocked many when hundreds of cases of teen pregnancies were reported.
The upsurge in teenage pregnancy turned out to be the biggest nightmare in the education sector that was staring at a crisis.
According to Kenya’s Ministry of Health survey, nearly 378,400 adolescent girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 years became pregnant between July 2016 and June 2017.
The figures covering only those seeking pre-natal and ante-natal care at the hospital, meaning the figure could be much higher owing to the bigger number of women who still don’t seek hospital care.
A case study of Kilifi County alone, in 2018, reported more 13000 cases of teenage pregnancies. In the same County, 3000 same cases have been reported between January and March 2019.
On March 25, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of law change to lower age of consent to 16. According to the judges, time was ripe for the nation to discuss challenges of maturing children, morality, autonomy, protection of children and the need for proportionality in punishing sex pests.
The judges said that men were unfairly languishing in jail for engaging with teens “who were willing to be and appeared to be adults”.
Although the judges noted that it was unrealistic to assume that teens and maturing adults were not engaging in sex. In simple words, even the judges acknowledge that sex among the youth is rampant.
Even as the Court of Appeal judges recommended a discussion with maturing adults on sex matters. TIFA survey indicates that only 30 per cent engaged their mothers on sexual topic, while 12 engaged both and 10 per cent faced their fathers for a discussion on the matter.
This survey clearly shows a big gap that perhaps only school can help in filling it, by not only teaching them but also giving them the confidence to face parents, teachers, religious leaders and siblings for a discussion on the matter.
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