Family Affair

THE PROS AND CONS OF SEX EDUCATION TO THE NIGERIAN YOUTH by Dr Mrs Nma Olebara

Sex education also known as sexuality education or sex and relationships education is a process of giving knowledge and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy.  It is a broad term that describes education on human anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health emotional relations, abstinence, contraception and other aspects of human sexual behaviour.

Sex education is basically conducted to help our youngsters and elders to prevent themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS.  Sex education is mainly provided by parents, caregivers, teachers, school programs and public health campaigns.

The youth years happen to be the most difficult years in the lives of children and their parents.  This is just after and about the age of puberty when rapid changes begin to take place in their bodies.  For some, the sudden changes are embarrassing and they would rather not confide in anyone at home.  They would rather confide in their friends and school mates who most often mislead them knowingly or unknowingly.

This is a very critical stage in the child’s upbringing for every parent as it is a time when extra care must be taken, else the child becomes a problem child for the family.

Sex education is still in some homes, a “no-go-area”, it is so bad that a child who has the guts to talk or ask questions about sexuality is looked at as being promiscuous and is quickly scolded and the topic not discussed.  Ignorance can be injurious.  Sex is a natural part of life and when questions arise, they can be discussed in a matured way, without condoning certain behaviours.  There is no topic that should be ignored at home and shifted to be learned at school.  Home is the first school any child is brought into.  No matter what a child learns outside the home, it always matters, what the child is seeing and hearing at home.  Keeping your children innocent when they are young is very important.  Children are meant to be secluded from certain things.  But some of our parents watch some of Nigerian movies with sexual behaviours with their children.  This is grossly inappropriate.

What do we as parents do to ensure that our children tow the right part?  What formula do we use when it comes to discussing sensitive issues like sex and body changes?

Parents should answer their children’s questions properly and inform them according to their level of exposure and maturity.  It will not be appropriate to look embarrassed or pretend sex never exists.  We might be fooling ourselves and exposing these children to untimely dangerous curiosity.  It is essential that we share with them, teach them in love and make them feel loved.  It is essential that they get this information from you.  Make them trust you and create a rapport with them but do not be judgmental while answering their questions.  Let us give them the right information so that they do not get the wrong ones that would have devastating consequences.

Children are more likely to make better and more informed decisions when adequately educated and parents would feel more confident knowing that their children are aware of the realities around their reproductive lives.

There are homes in which parents teach their children everything except sex education. Some do not use the actual names of the sex organs when addressing their children. A lot of factors contribute to this. The first is culture-culturally, a child should not discuss such issues with the parents as it is seen as a taboo to open up such conservation.

In the olden days in Igbo land in Nigeria and even now in Northern parts of Nigeria, young girls were and are still being given out in marriage even before the onset of their menstrual cycle. At this stage, they practically know nothing about their bodies and the process of development neither do they understand the intricacies of motherhood.

The second factor is religion. Certain religious denominations discourage parents from discussing sex education with their children. Among such religions sects, sex is a taboo among young people and must not be discussed. Even during Sunday schools, teenagers are not permitted to raise issues or questions that bother on sex.

It is advisable to teach our children about their bodies even as they grow. Let them know the functions of each sex organ and the implication of misusing each. The Christians should be made to know what the bible says about our bodies that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and must not be defiled or misused. Let them understand the spiritual and physical implications of misusing their bodies. Let them know God’s laws concerning adultery and fornications, use biblical examples to buttress your points.

In some homes, the most the daughters get to hear from their mothers when they start menstruation is that “if a man touches you, you will get pregnant”, in such cases, the girls are left at the mercy of their peers who often misdirect them. The fathers are too busy chasing money and all they can tell their son is “don’t get anybody pregnant”. Most families get to talk when it is too late, either when their daughter gets impregnated or when their son impregnates a girl.

The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council in Conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Education and the Action Health Inc. has proposed sexuality education curriculum for upper primary schools, Junior and Secondary schools in Nigeria.

Controversies are abundant when dealing with such delicate issues and there are many pros and cons to sexual education being taught in schools.

It seems that most of our parents are either strongly against or strongly in favour of sex education classes.

To be continued

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