admin | May 29, 2023
When Delight Ziwacha was 16, she didn't know one could get pregnant after having unprotected sex only once. So she had unprotected sex once with her 17-year-old boyfriend. A month and a half later, she found out she was pregnant. Zimbabwe has a sex education program designed to equip young people with knowledge about sex and help reduce the increasing number of teenage pregnancies. But people are questioning the curriculum. Some say it needs to be redesigned, while others want the curriculum scrapped altogether, saying that it only encourages young people to engage in early sex. Vimbai Berete is a parent, and says that young people already have access to information about sex from the internet or social media, whether or not they study sex education. She says, "I feel it's better that they get formal sex education than us pretending they are innocent."
When Delight Ziwacha was 16, she didn’t know one could get pregnant after having unprotected sex only once. A friend told her that it had to happen multiple times. So she had unprotected sex once with her 17-year-old boyfriend. A month and a half later, she found out she was pregnant.
Ms. Ziwacha is now 19, and says she doesn’t remember receiving sex education at school. The little she knew was from conversations with friends.
Zimbabwe has a Comprehensive Sexuality Education program designed to equip young people with knowledge about sex and help reduce teenage pregnancies, which have been soaring in the country—particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introduced Zimbabwe’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education program in 2015. Government data shows that in January and February 2021, nearly 5,000 girls aged 17 and under got pregnant.
As a result, people are questioning the curriculum. Some say it falls short and are asking the government to redesign it, while others want the curriculum scrapped altogether, saying that it only encourages young people to engage in early sex.
Munashe is a primary school teacher who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of retribution. He blames the curriculum design for the steady increase in the number of teenage pregnancies. He says the design is evidence of the government’s lack of seriousness about sex education. He says, “Maybe if treated as a subject on its own, then it will be given enough time and become impactive on behavior change of youths toward sexual activities.”
But the teacher says the government isn’t entirely to blame. He admits that some schools have neglected sex education. Some do not teach it or test student’s knowledge about it. Others, he says, leave the responsibility of sex education to non-profits. He adds, “There are organizations that come and teach learners in schools, but in the absence of funding, no sex education happens.”
Panashe Sithole is an 18-year-old member of parliament in Zimbabwe’s Junior Parliament. She sees the need for a complete overhaul of the current sex education program. She says it should be offered as a stand-alone subject.
Ms. Sithole, who is in secondary school, says that sex education is rarely taught in her school. She says that more is needed to complement sex education and reduce teenage pregnancies, such as distributing free contraceptives in schools. However, parliament has previously rejected this proposal.
Not everyone thinks a redesign is necessary. Some say introducing sex education has only stirred the hornet’s nest. Chenai Muti is a parent who believes exposing young people to sex education has encouraged more to engage in early sex and led to more unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Mrs. Muti says: “[In] our generation, unwanted pregnancies were rare because we were not taught about [this] adult stuff. Sex issues should be learned by one once they are married, not before.”
Ekenia Chifamba says this is one of the many myths surrounding sex education that she has encountered in her work. She is the founding director of Shamwari Ye Mwanasikana, a nonprofit that empowers girls, and she says that sex education equips young people to make informed decisions on their sexuality.
This is why her organization has been offering peer counseling to young women. She says, “They meet up and discuss issues that they specifically face, for them to be able to draw strength and lessons from each other.”
Vimbai Berete is a parent, and says that young people already have access to some of this information from the internet or social media, whether or not they take sex education. She says, “I feel it’s better that they get formal sex education than us pretending they are innocent.”
Mrs. Berete has already broached the subject with her six-year-old daughter, but only what she considers appropriate. She says: “I cannot talk to her about sex now, but I have already created that relationship where I can actually talk to her when the time is right. As parents, we should play our part and not leave everything to teachers.”
This story is adapted from an article written by Evidence Chenjerai for Global Press Journal, titled “Teen Pregnancies Are Soaring. Is Revamping Sex Education the Answer?” To read the original article, go to: https://globalpressjournal.com/africa/zimbabwe/teen-pregnancies-soaring-revamping-sex-education-answer/
Photo: Delight Ziwacha, 19, does chores at her home in Bikita, Zimbabwe. The first time she had sex, Ziwacha didn’t know she could get pregnant after having unprotected sex only once. Credit: EVIDENCE CHENJERAI, GPJ ZIMBABWE