Adolescents need quality sexual health education
The current curriculum is limited in scope when it comes to sexuality matters and shy’s away from addressing real issues affecting young people.
In 2017, the government launched the new education curriculum: Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) ruling out the 8-4-4 system with notions that young people graduated with no basic or practical skills for employment.
This curriculum is geared towards individuals having marketable employment skills both at the entrepreneurial level and for the labor market (formal or informal). The system is divided into 2-6-3-3-3; 2 years in pre-primary, 6 years in primary, 3 years in junior secondary, 3 years in secondary, and final 3 years in higher learning.
The new curriculum considers survival in the 21st century with a vision to model young empowered, engaged and ethical citizens ready to participate in the social and economic development of the country. CBC endeavors to provide learners with world-class standard skills and knowledge that are practical and can facilitate their living.
The curriculum contains common subjects like Religion, English, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Environment with the incorporation of hygiene and nutrition at lower primary level, physical and health activities at upper primary, and health education and life skills education at the lower secondary level.
Even though human basic understanding on matter health and life skills, is the assumption that it incorporates some components of sexuality education, the CBC’s first fault is the omission of children’s rights and sex education as a fundamental learn right. Many young people are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, non-hygienically menstruation, and coercion that hinders their effective engagement in school and home.
49% of new HIV infections occur among young people. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), approximately 378,400 adolescent girls in Kenya aged between 10-19 years became pregnant between July 2016 and June 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic cases of sexual violence, child marriage, and teen pregnancies shot up due to a lack of sexual and reproductive health information and services.
A clear reality is that young people, due to exposure to the digital world and the widespread misinformation, continue to practice unsafe sexual activities among themselves with no factual knowledge on protection from STI, HIV, and unintended pregnancies.
The existing opposition composing (religion and parents) has derailed implementation of school health policy, which has basic components of CSE and proved to be some obstacles to adolescents and youth access to comprehensive sexuality information that will equip them with skills and knowledge to make informed sexual choices. Various studies have reported that adolescents and young people with access to health and relationship and sex education, delay the onset of their sexual activity. This helps to reduce the number of sexual partners, rates of unplanned and unintended pregnancy, and STI and HIV transmission rates.
Although, Kenyan youth do not have the privilege of fully accessing sexuality knowledge as the new curriculum focuses on communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship, digital literacy, learning to learn, and self-efficacy with no focus on sexual and reproductive health. It, therefore, means, even with the new curriculum, schools are unhealthy and unsafe for sexuality education, exposing adolescents and youth to more sexual health risks.
It’s important for the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to ensure integration of age-appropriate sexuality education, the ministries of education and health should also complement this with the promotion of progressive policies on health and education that are informed by evidence, to advance life skills using modern knowledge and methods in supporting interactive teaching for adolescents and youth to feel comfortable and safe while in school.
There’s a huge need of having sex and reproductive health education that is age-appropriate in schools and have teachers trained as they have proven to be influential in adolescents’ growth and development.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education is critical in preventing negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes among adolescents and youth.