Parents often keep pushing the dire task of teaching their children about sex for as long as possible. In Kenya, particularly, taboos associated with the topic are so strong that even educated individuals and families shy away when it is remotely breached.
Yet one cannot deny the importance of sex education in schools in the present times. Children today are more mature and exposed to a lot of things from an early age which calls for a thorough understanding of certain things around them. Only with awareness can they be responsible for their own safety as and when needed.
Let us delve deeper into the various nuances of sex education at an early learning stage and how it can help in constructing the overall character of the child.
The following are some of the reasons why schools need to provide sex education to school students from an early age:
Awareness about STDs
Lack of awareness on how diseases spread and how to prevent it is the primary reason. Comprehensive sex education from an early learning stage in school not only makes children aware of the different sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, and how they spread, it also teaches them about the resources to get health check-ups and preventive measures against such diseases. These include safe sexual practices and knowledge of contraception among others.
Knowledge about “Life skills”
Students from all genders can be taught about consent, emotional connection, sexual health and various safe sex practices. The approach to such topics from an early age further puts forth the importance of sex education. Students who attend the classes will be much more open about discussions related to sexual pleasure and sexuality in their adulthood. Furthermore, their capabilities to differentiate between right and wrong approaches towards sex were improved. As a result, students exposed to such training will have a better capacity to tell apart good and bad touches as well as protect themselves better.
Reproductive and Sexual Hygiene
Girls as young as 15 being married off to much older men in parts of rural Kenya is a sad truth in our country. These practices lead to high-risk pregnancies among adolescent females. Not only do they experience multiple pregnancies even before they cross the threshold of adulthood, but the delivery process and overall hygiene standards maintained are mediocre throughout the phase, leading to high maternal mortality between the ages of 15 to 24.
This brings us to the importance of sex education in rural schools from an early age. The curriculum will not only break age-old stereotypes surrounding the topic but also make children more aware and through them, their parents. The curriculum should not only includes safe practices to prevent unwanted pregnancy at an early age but also everything about hygienic menstrual well-being. The secrecy around the subject, especially in rural areas is shattered when the topics are breached in school in a scientific and age-appropriate manner.
Say “No” to Sexual Abuse
Young children and women are the most vulnerable to being sexually violated, often by close acquaintances, especially if they are not aware of sexuality as a whole. This is especially true for children who are yet to understand the differences between “good” and “bad” touch.
In school, the curriculum for comprehensive sex education, at the most basic level, should teach children the differences between good and bad touch and how to classify abuse. They are taught at an early learning stage, what should be done in case they go through such a situation. Simply by including the topics into the regular school curriculum, many children can be saved from lifelong psychological trauma as they can now be the master of their own bodies.
Conclusively, the importance of sex education is undeniable at any age and making it a part of the school curriculum like any other regular class will only add to securing the child’s future and help them grow into more responsible and empathetic adults.
Alvin Mwangi is a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Youth Expert