“Shock as 35 secondary school students nabbed with drinks, drugs and snuff” the headlines screamed on Friday August 7, 2015.
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A further read gave us the finer details of what the students were doing on their bus ride from Karatina to Nairobi and there was collective shock when it emerged that they were having some type of sexual orgy in the bus.
As a result of this incident, questions have been raised about how today’s children are being parented and whether or not they are being taught right and wrong from home.
Even more pertinent is the question: “Who is teaching your children about sex?”
Granted, this is not an easy topic to tackle and there cannot be too many days when you should delve into this conversation with your children but surely, that bus incident ought to have been one of those days where parents sat their sons and daughters down and talked to them about the ‘birds and the bees’.
For Limbe, a single mother of one, that day had come a few months before.
It came after a news anchor reported a proposal by Government to give condoms to 10-year-olds, as part of a move to teach sex education in schools, following perceived increase in teen pregnancies.
“I have wanted to talk to him about sex since he was six, but there never seemed to be a right time to do that,” Limbe says.
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She says the news item made her realize that there was never going to be a ‘right time’ to talk about sex to her son who is turning 10.
“Parents have to start sometime, so let us do it now,” she says noting that the news piece was just the right push she needed to jerk her into action.
“That night, as uncomfortable as it made both of us, I had to explain to him what condoms and contraceptives are, how to use them, what HIV is, pregnancy and also did the best I could to debunk the notion that sex is bad,” she says.
While her son acted all shy and seemed to giggle his way through the session, which turned out to be a monologue as opposed to the anticipated dialogue, she believes she equipped him with the necessarily information that if and when he decides to engage in sex, he will be making an informed decision knowing too well the physical, health, financial and more importantly emotional implications of his action.
In addition, she believes that through the talk, she provided a safe environment for him to talk about sex and sex related issues with her at a later time when the need arose.
Limbe was later to learn that he knew about pregnancy and sex thanks to his friends at school and the TV programmes he had been watching.
Many parents lack Limbe’s courage and forthrightness and as a result, there has been a feeling that the responsibility of sex education has been left to school teachers.
“I cannot tell you the number of times children have approached me to ask about hormonal changes or to explain to them a scene they saw on yesterday night’s programme which elicited ‘weird’ feelings in them.
When I suggest they follow it up with their parents, this is quickly dismissed says Evans J., a teacher at a private primary school.
However, for parents such as Hellen Mwangi, a mother of two whose first daughter got pregnant at 14 during the long holiday, their silence could be because they feel ill-equipped to tackle the topic.
“A discussion of sex during our day included being told, amid whispers that sex is bad. It is this same information we pass on to our children.
I for instance deliberately kept the information from my daughter kidding myself that she was better off not knowing. Little did I know that she was already engaging in sex on her friends’ account that it was the cool thing to do,” she says.
Her sentiments are echoed by Limbe who adds: “We were taught little if anything about love and honoring your partner and the consequences of sex were only limited to how it would ruin your career and embarrass the family.
In addition, we think talking about sex is a radical action on our part and fear that empowering our children with information will only encourage them to have sex”.
Because a person’s sexuality is a vital part of their make-up, we all need to embrace the fact that sex education is a vital topic that must be taught to our children.
In the same way that we, as parents, are willing to spend a lot of money to ensure they get an education, we must be willing to sacrifice and overlook our own misgivings so that we can be the primary source of this information for them.
As Susan, a child psychologist says: “The earlier you start having these conversations with your children, the sooner you establish yourself approachable in matters sex.
It also makes you better placed to guide development of healthy sexual behavior and the less likely your children are to tune you out as they naturally start to search for answers once they reach adolescence”.