United Nations Population Fund –UNFPA Office in Uganda says teaching comprehensive sexual education in Uganda is not aimed at promoting homosexuality.
Dr. Akinyele Eric Dairo, the head of the UNFPA office in Uganda says the current debate on whether or not to teach sex education in school is healthy but adds that some of it has been blown out of proportion.
Dr. Dairo in an interview with Uganda Radio Network says young persons whether in schools or out of school have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health yet lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly. This, he says, leaves them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.
But providing sex education in schools in Uganda, like many African countries, has long been a war between those who demand limited exposure of sexuality information to teenagers and those who argue that they should be provided with comprehensive information on the complex topic.
There was a heated debate in Parliament three weeks ago following a motion urging the Ministry of Education to halt the roll-out of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools.
Almost all the Members of Parliament contributing to the debate said teaching comprehensive sexuality education to young people was likely to erode Uganda’s culture and also promote homosexuality.
Helen Grace Asamo, the MP representing Persons with Disabilities from Eastern Uganda, was one of those that expressed fear about comprehensive sexuality education. She says the old system of teaching sexuality education could still work.
Dr. Dairo who has been involved in promoting sexual and reproductive health rights and services for young persons and mothers in Uganda since the late nineties, says the purpose of sexuality education that is being introduced is yet to be understood by those opposing it.
From the late 1990, Uganda has been Sex education programs in schools stressing abstinence to teaching how to prevent HIV and STDs.
UNFPA and other advocates of sex education often point to the rate of teenage pregnancy as an example of how the current system is failing young people.
Studies are indicating that although Ugandan adolescents are now delaying (first) sexual intercourse more than before, the majority have become sexually active by the age of 18.
Ugandan girls start sexual intercourse at a younger age than boys: 15.5% of the girls have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15, rising to 64.2% by the age of 18, as compared to 12.2% and 49.9% of the boys.
Dr. Dairo says given the statistics, there is need to re-frame discussions around young parents and what that means in terms of what support, information and education they are being given to help build their self-esteem and resist coercion into sex.
In December 2013, health and education ministers and representatives from 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa affirmed a commitment supporting sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people.
The Ministers who included representatives from Uganda committed themselves to invest in quality education that includes comprehensive, life skills based sexuality education to fulfil the right to education whilst also contributing to the well-being and future quality of young people’s lives. The ministers agreed that the kind of sexuality education was to be culturally sensitive and age appropriate.
Attempts by Ministry of Education to integrate comprehensive sexuality education in the school curriculum have met some resistance from parents and others who assert that sex education is contradicting Ugandan cultural norms.
The Ministry of Education with support from UNFPA has in collaboration with National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) been trying to integrate and eventually institutionalise comprehensive sexuality education in the secondary school curriculum.
The curriculum review process started in 2012 and will take a period of five years to culminate into a new secondary school curriculum by 2017. This is part of the key output of the 7th Government of Uganda and United Nations Population Fund Country Programme Action Plan under the theme “Choices for sexual and reproductive health lifestyles are increased.”
The NCDC in 2009 identified five subjects in the secondary school curriculum through which comprehensive sexuality education can be infused.
The subjects include Biology, Geography, English, Christian Religious Education and Islamic Religious Education.