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‘Families can help stem teen pregnancies’

THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has called for increased family involvement in addressing alarming incidences of teen pregnancies in the country’s learning institutions.

REPORT BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

The call follows widespread scepticism of the reproductive health curriculum in schools, which many people said failed to address the problem of teen pregnancies.

The Standard recently reported that most children, some as young as 12 years, were sexually active, resulting in them getting pregnant and dropping out of school.

In response to questions sent to the Education ministry about the suitability of the curriculum, permanent secretary, Constance Chigwamba’s office said families were the building blocks of communities, and have to play a role in the fight against teen pregnancies.

“There is room for parents and the community at large to complement what the curriculum is offering, in terms of information and life skills,” said Chigwamba’s office in a statement to The Standard.

The ministry said it was necessary to discuss the phenomenon of teenage pregnancies from a wider perspective than the curriculum in schools.

“For example, the nation has to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to the prevention and management of HIV and Aids,” it said.

The ministry acknowledged that it was a tall order to raise healthy, productive children and youth with positive behavioural attributes.

It said sexuality and reproductive health was being initiated from Early Childhood Development level (three to five years).

“The detail and complexity gradually increases as the learner moves up the primary grades. At both primary and secondary level, time is allocated to the guidance and counselling programme,” said the ministry.

The ministry however could not provide a detailed response on what is covered grade by grade, saying that it would take a bit of time.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of lesbianism at two schools in Harare and in Manicaland, another sign of lack of cultural guidance.

A senior education officer said about four girls were recently expelled from Girls High School in Harare for practising lesbianism, while eight were dismissed at Lydia Chimonyo Girls High School in Chimanimani district for the same reason.

The expulsion of the eight students was approved by the acting Manicaland provincial educationdirector, Andrew Chigumira.

Last year, Girls High School in Harare was embroiled in a near scandal when an 18-year-old student gave birth in between her O’Level exams.

The student who had managed to conceal her pregnancy from her parents and school authorities went into premature labour, that culminated in the birth of a baby girl at Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Home.

‘YOUTH-FRIENDLY CENTRES WAY TO GO’

Sexual and reproductive health officer for the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC), Taurai Bhatasara said the organisation was pushing for the strengthening of youth-friendly centres to encourage young people to access information on reproductive health and sexuality.

“Our emphasis as an organisation is to provide as much information as possible, but the challenge is that the facilities available are not youth friendly,” he said.

“At different platforms the youth have voiced their concerns over the issue.

“It is high time we fully engaged the government to address this, so that more and more young people have access to information that will help them in making important decisions.”

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