OPINION: Sexuality education for children and adolescents – more harm or good?

Author: Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima

After the recent scandal circulating on social media by the Lubiri students in the Midland High school bus, this article entitled “Has comprehensive sexuality education for children and adolescents done more harm than good” elaborates all what parents and teachers need to know

Author: Lilian Nuwabaine

Looking at almost all social media platforms and media print a few weeks back; the discussion has been about the viral video which showed female students dancing on the laps of male students while in a bus moving. Many people were not pleased at all seeing such seductive dance moves by students, to which most defined as immoral. In fact, some parents couldn’t imagine their daughters being involved in such activities.

A lot of comments were made on various platforms. One person commented “Don’t joke with adolescents by the way, now with civilization, those fellas have no shame!). She added “Children don’t fear HIV and pregnancy, no decorum or nsonyi (shyness)). Another parent said “Me, I blame it on lockdown, children got spoilt mostly during that time, I don’t blame the schools at all, the schools build on what parents have instilled”. She added “nowadays some parents pack condoms and pills for their daughters). The issue of contraceptive use among adolescents became a big concern and caused a hot debate. In fact, most parents responded that it’s an abomination to hear or know that their adolescents are using contraceptives or even to hear that their adolescents are sexually active. One of the born-again parent commented “I will not raise my children and tell them to have pills or have condoms, no no” She added, “Let’s purpose and be intentional, pray and tell these children it’s not right to have sex when the time is not right”.

As a Midwife and Women’s’ Health specialist and as an advocate for SRHR and adolescent health, my mind immediately rushed to the high mortality rate in Uganda attributed by the unsafe abortions and pregnancy related complications arising from teenage pregnancies, without forgetting the high HIV rates among adolescents. 

With a median age of just 15 years, Uganda has the second youngest population in the whole world.  More than half of the population is the under the age of 18 years and this youthful population presents with many sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges. According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), 24.8% of girls aged 15 to 19 years had already begun childbearing, which was as high as 53.9% among girls aged 19years. Available evidence from multiple studies shows that adolescent pregnancy is associated with immediate health risks such as obstructed labour, operative delivery like caesarean section, preterm delivery, hypertensive disorders of preeclampsia and eclampsia, and poor infant survival. Adolescent pregnancy further leads to long-term risks of school drop-outs and the financial burden of child-bearing

Additionally, Uganda has one of the ten highest HIV prevalence rates in the world at 6.2% (with 4.7% among males and 7.6% among females) and with about 1.2 million adults and 95,000 children below the age of 15 years living with HIV/AIDS respectively. Thus, in this young population, comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health knowledge and services is of upmost importance.

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