PARENTS have called on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to prioritise abstinence in their sex education curriculum to combat teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among youths.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
This follows an exposé by The Standard a fortnight ago revealing children, as young as 12 years, were already sexually active in the country.
A good number of parents conceded that while it was their mandate to discuss with their children about reproductive health issues, teachers also had an obligation to bring in the moral aspect of abstinence when teaching about the various preventive methods.
In wide-ranging interviews with parents who were picking up their children from schools around Harare, many said abstinence was the solution in the advent of HIV and Aids.
David Tasiyana, father of four girls, said there should not even be room for other strategies except abstinence.
“Why should they even be given options? The curriculum should be hinged on moral values more than on the cold facts, which offer solutions that are not foolproof,” said Tasiyana, whose four daughters are still in primary school.
Another parent, Stephen Makina said: “It is not enough to tell the children that there are means to prevent pregnancies or STIs without reiterating that abstinence remains the best way. The children should know that resorting to those other means is an indication of moral decay and as parents we would have failed them.”
Another parent, Dickios Mtombeni from Dzivarasekwa suburb said it should be a shared responsibility between the teachers and the parents to nurture children.
“As long as we keep blaming each other, it will not benefit the child. The teacher has an obligation as much as the parent,” said Mtombeni.
“In terms of the biology bit that requires more information, the teacher should take up that one, but the parent can then tackle issues like abstinence and what society expects of the young people.”
Memory Sakala from Vainona said it would be easier if reproductive health subjects were taught in a formal setting like a school.
“It is a known fact that our children will listen more to their teacher than their parent, so the reproductive health subject should solely be handled at school. Parents do not also have adequate information and might mislead the children,” she said.
Programmes manager with youth organisation, Students and Youths Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SayWhat), Darlington Muyambwa, however said while abstinence was very crucial, it was also prudent that the young people receive the full package of well-targeted information.
“This issue is very sensitive for parents because of the role that they need to play, but we also have to be cognisant of the fact that there are those who have already indulged and we need to cater for them as well,” he said.
Muyambwa said the age at which youth were having their sexual debut should be the threshold at which to begin lobbying for abstinence.
“You cannot tell by merely looking, but statistics tell us exactly at what age the youth are starting to have sex. The messages then should be well-targeted to cater for the various groups, because for those who have already indulged, the gospel of abstinence is not enough.”
Muyambwa said the youth should be taught about being faithful to one partner, getting tested for HIV and Aids and correct and consistent use of condoms.
“However, it is worrisome that the condom is now overshadowing all the other key approaches, it should remain balanced,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Teachers Day commemorations held at Celebration Centre recently, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora emphasised the importance of bringing up children with sound moral values.
“As Africans, we always aspire to bring up children that are wholesome in morals and our curriculum should reflect and promote that aspect,” he said.