Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ban on sex education in Uganda schools to be lifted

By Esther Nakkazi

By early next year, the ban on sexuality education in Uganda schools will be lifted after a policy to guide the curriculum on what will be taught has been developed.

We all had concerns that the sex education ban was unjustified but recently we talked about it at a Science Café and shockingly authorities in the know said it was a blessing in disguise.

The Science Café was the 14th held by the Health Journalists Network in Uganda at their home in Ntinda and the second one sponsored by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Uganda Its theme was ‘teenage pregnancy’ held on November 30th with oversight from Reach A Hand.

Penninah Kyoyagala Tomusange the national programme officer, Adolescent and youth sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at UNFPA-Uganda said although we all thought that the ban on sexuality education was a bad thing it was actually a good move by the government. Why?

Apparently, the previous content and packaging was terrible. So right now all stakeholders are meeting to create a package that will have relevant and accurate information for sex education in Ugandan schools.

“Sexuality education is about accurate information,” emphasised Kyoyagala. “No teenager wants to be a dad or Mum.”

Sexuality education is also a life long thing since environments keep changing, sometimes its verbal other times non verbal.

One misinformation that was in the old package was on condom use. So the new curriculum talks about proper condom use but condoms will not be distributed in schools. The students will be informed on where to find them in health facilities.

This is a good move but will it work given the disconnect between health facilities and education centres. The two government entities do not seem to speak to each other at all! Look at the way youth are always begging for youth friendly services in health facilities.

It is only a song well sang but only practiced by a few facilities like the Naguru Teenage Information Health Centre.

We also had Denis Lewis Bukenya the deputy director, Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre (NTIHC) talk to us at the science Café. He too emphasised the need for accurate information and to regularly sensitize and empower teenagers to make better-informed decisions.

“Provide accurate information so that the decisions teenagers make are accurate,” said Bukenya.

He said the youth need to have ready access to youth friendly sexuality education services so they can get their needs and questions attended to. Bukenya also stressed a need to educate boys who are not only active participants in creating teen pregnancies but are also custodians of the decision making process.

Godfrey Walakira the training and development manager, Straight talk foundation Uganda, was also a speaker at the science cafés and gave astounding statistics. He said research shows 43% of all Uganda teenagers are forced into the first sexual encounter. The early sex debut is also at the young age of 12/13 years in Uganda.

Pregnancy usually leaves stigma around the girl yet many times it is not their fault entirely. Many are defiled and according to the Police crime report 2011, defilement was the most prevalent crime.

Meanwhile, teenage pregnancy is still a big problem in Uganda. Walakira noted that the national average prevalence of teenage pregnancy currently stands at 24% according to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS 2011).

Regionally, the rate of teenage pregnancy is highest at 30.6% for Central Uganda, 30.3% for Eastern, 29.7% for Karamoja, 26.4% for West Nile and 25.6% for the North Uganda, Western Uganda is at 22.6 while south western is at 15%.

Walakira stressed the need to handle a number of issues that lead to teenage pregnancies including child marriages whose prevalence stands at 59% for Northern Uganda, 58% for Western region, 52% for Eastern region, 50% West Nile, 41.9% for central region, 37% for southWestern and 21% for Kampala according to the 2011 UDHS.

One way that Uganda can reverse these stats is increase in teenagers’ access to age appropriate sexual reproductive health information, which, can effectively be done through provision of appropriate information to the schools or directly through the communities.

The conclusion therefore at the Science Café was that Uganda should popularise sexuality education in schools. It will delay their sexual debut, probably reduce teen pregnancy but most importantly when the teenagers get accurate sex information they are empowered.


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