Study calls for shift in sexuality education in schools from abstinence to safe sex

A study by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in conjunction with the Guttmacher Institute has revealed that while most teachers focus on abstinence as the best or only method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the reality is that a quarter of students—most of them aged 15–17—had already had sexual intercourse at least once, and thus needed the information and skills to do so safely.

The study in Homa Bay, Mombasa and Nairobi counties conducted in 78 secondary schools supports numerous studies which have shown that programs that exclusively promote abstinence, while withholding information about contraception, are not effective at improving adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Estelle Sidze of APHRC, the lead author of the report said that a majority of the students they talked to said their teachers told them that they should not have sex before marriage and that having sex is dangerous for young people. “Fewer than one in five students said they learned about different contraceptive methods, how to use them and where to get them, even though equipping adolescents with this practical knowledge is a crucial component of sexuality education.”

The 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 lack of training and support that teachers receive.

“We found that many teachers would like more information and training, particularly on violence prevention and contraceptive use, as well as on teaching methods,” says Melissa Stillman, research associate at the Guttmacher Institute and a coauthor of the study. “Prioritizing teacher training is essential to implement effective and comprehensive sexuality education programs.”

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

 

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