The debate on whether to introduce sex education in both primary and secondary school fizzled into thin air, with its’ echoes being heard three years ago during the launch of the National Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Policy (ASPRH) 2015.
Nominated senator Judith Achieng Sijeny had hitherto, in 2014, presented the Reproductive Health Care Bill seeking adolescents to be given unhindered access to comprehensive sexual education and confidential services but the bill was suffocated by senate for they claimed it was an attempt to ‘spoil children’. The then Education Cabinet Secretary(CS) Jacob Kaimenyi said that his Ministry would not allow ‘introduction of immorality’ in to schools. The Bill reverberated some what wrongly into various quotas including religious groups, parents and teachers. It was therefore rejected.
Sex education remains a sensitive subject in Kenya. Controversy sails around sex education being valuable or detrimental. While the debate simmers down, let us be aware that a recent report by Lancet shows that Kenya has the highest HIV infection rate in Africa. The research conducted between 2005 and 2015 shows the number of New HIV cases grew by an average of 7.1% per year.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki recently featured on various news sources expressing concerns over the high number (over 40%) of new infections among young people aged between 15-24 years.
Revisionist groups are the strongest advocates against sex education for Kenyan children and adolescents. Conservative religious group advocate for abstinence yet a report by (Kenya Demographic Health Survey) KDHS 2014 show that 18% of young women aged between 15-19 years have given birth or are pregnant with their first child. Alarmingly, separate reports show that half a million abortions happen in Kenya every single year!
Many young people lack information because of lack of sex education. Various myths and misconceptions about sex cloud them. Others turn to the Internet or media for information and hardly to parents or teachers.
Sex education will largely reduce cases of HIV/AIDs, STIs, teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Adolescents will learn how to make informed decisions. The teachings should therefore take place both at home and school. Parents should be open and bold to speak to their children about sexuality. Sex education should be mandatory for children in primary and secondary schools so that children grow up understanding their sexuality.
Policy makers should on the other hand play their role. We need stronger, ethical, human and secular laws that bring on board all stakeholders without undue influence from any quotas. A consensus among all stakeholders (teachers, parents, policy makers) is mandatory. Every child has a right to information about their sexuality!