School going children misinformed about Sex and Sexuality

A study has revealed that one in four Kenyan secondary school students thinks that using a condom during sexual activity is a sign of mistrust, casting a shadow at efforts to grow responsible sexual behavior in children. The survey by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in conjunction with the Guttmacher Institute in Homa Bay, Mombasa and Nairobi counties gives insights into better curriculum development for children.

The study on sexuality education conducted in 78 secondary schools also reveals that a third of female students and more than half of male students also said that when a girl says no to sex, more often than not, she really means yes. At the same time, nearly half of female and 70 per cent of male students believed that “protected and consensual sex with someone you love is a good thing.”

“These inherent contradictions in the responses from nearly 2,500 Kenyan students demonstrate that there is a decided lack of understanding and awareness about sexuality, sexual and reproductive rights, consent and how to best protect oneself against sexually transmitted infection or unplanned pregnancy,” says Dr. Estelle Sidze of APHRC, the lead author of the report. “We have a responsibility to the young people of Kenya to provide them with the best possible information about sexuality and sexual behavior so they can make smart, empowered choices.”

At a time when the Kenyan curriculum is under review by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the release of this study provides evidence and an opportunity for policymakers and decision makers to explore how best to improve the comprehensiveness of existing curricula. This will better equip adolescents with the information and skills they need to achieve healthy sexual and reproductive lives, prevent sexual violence and avoid negative health outcomes.

According to standards set by the United Nations and other international agencies, comprehensive sexuality education should cover a range of topics, which fit into five categories identified by the study team: sexual and reproductive physiology; HIV/STI prevention; contraception and unintended pregnancy; values and interpersonal skills; and gender and sexual and reproductive rights. The study found that three in four surveyed teachers in the three counties report that they are teaching the full slate of topics that constitute a comprehensive approach to sexuality education. Among the students surveyed, however, just 2 per cent expressed confidence that they were receiving information on the full range of topics from their teachers.

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