African parents are the worst. They will give you life and all the while, threaten you heavily of how they will take you out. They are known to manipulate, exaggerate and magnify a situation. Woe unto you if you once tried to block a slap or beating, you will be accused of attempted murder and every member of your family will know about it. African parents do not know how to show or express love. Their way for expressing love is when you do good in you exams and they brag about it to their friends. Rarely will they utter you the words.
African parents are super spiritual. They avoid specific topics and will make you feel ashamed by thinking about certain things. For example, African dads want absolutely zero to do with their daughter’s menses or anything closely related to that. It’s their mother’s work. They are so guarded and take culture and religion too seriously that the thought of such topics is an abomination and a direct ticket to hell. But there is one topic that would cause an African parent to lose his mind and bring drama to the end of the world. Sex!
The mention of sex or anything sexual, for that matter, will lead you straight to the pastor’s office right after they almost killed you from a terrible beating. You will be accused of being a rotten and disrespectful child, and you will live the rest of your life, knowing heaven is not for you. So the thought of sex education is nothing our old school parents what to mess around with. That is why a huge percentage of them are against sex education in schools.
Sex education is just as it sounds; the knowledge of sex to our children. It entails the discussion on sexual reproduction, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control, sexual abstinence, and the age of consent. Does your teen or pre-teen know about this? Do you plan on them knowing about it?
As a parent, it is essential to educate your child on sexual matters based on their age and level of understanding. Studies show that when under the age of 5, as a parent teaches their child the parts of the body, they should also teach them what their sexual organs are, their names, and even advice against someone touching them inappropriately. It is also at this point that a parent should emphasize the importance of privacy and tell them that their organs are not for everyone to see or touch, and they should, in turn, respect the privacy of others.
As the child grows older, a parent is encouraged to educate their child more and more and answer, truthfully, whatever questions they might have. They should also affirm to their children that bodies come in different shapes, sizes, colors, etc., and to learn to say NO when they feel someone is treating, coercing, or touching them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
As the kids hit puberty, they learn or have already learned about the uses of their sexual organs and what roles they play. Parents should help their child through this stage as a lot of physical and emotional changes are happening. They should assure them that what they go through is normal and encourage them to embrace the new changes their bodies are going through.
During the teenage years, parents are encouraged to talk to their children about sexual intercourse as they are also learning the same in school. A parent should educate the child on all things sexual, e.g., abstinence, use of protection, consent, family planning methods, pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual rights and offences. This is also the perfect time to talk about love and relationships and how to go about them.
Brief research carried out on ten of my friends showed that seven of them never got any form of sex education from their parents at any point in their lives. Two got ‘the talk’ after their parents found out they were dating, and the fear of the lord was instilled in them on how they would contract diseases and die, be teenage parents, and how if any of that happened, they would chase them away from home. Only one of my friends had the talk with his dad, who was very open and answered all his questions the best way he could. Suffice to say that his dad was a college professor. I fall into the category of the seven who got zero talks from their parents.
In Kenya, the need for comprehensive sexual education has been a debate that has brought a lot of controversy and opinions from all corners. While some agree with the importance of sex education, some argue that it is against our culture and traditions and should not be entertained. According to research carried out in 3 counties, i.e., Nairobi, Mombasa, and Homa Bay in 2015, the study showed that ‘comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is necessary to ensure healthy sexual and reproductive lives for adolescents. It should include accurate information on a range of age-appropriate topics; should be participatory; and should foster knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills to enable adolescents to develop positive views of their sexuality.’
Although sex education is discussed in terms of its role in reducing teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, supporters of sex education say that it is more significant than that. They argue that it gives the young people a chance to receive accurate information, help them in making well-informed choices and decisions, e.g., learning to say NO, avoid peer pressure, and examine their values and principles. This, in turn, helps them be better decision-makers, be responsible, and grow up to be better adults.
Some reasons that some are against sex education are because;
- A large population is conservative
- It is taboo to talk about it
- Believe it may promote sexual deviancy and moral decay
- Guardian/teacher may feel embarrassed to talk about it as it is a topic many shy away from
- Many claim it is for the west, Its un-African
While the government signed a declaration where it committed to improving comprehensive rights-based sexuality education in 2013, a lot of backlash has been received, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to the fate of the Kenyan youth.
Research shows that;
- While 86% of adolescents attend primary school, only 33% continue to secondary school. Most students in Forms 2 and 3 (96%) had received some sexuality education by the time they completed primary school. Still, the information received at this level is very basic and does not include information on safe sex.
- The majority of students (65%) who started learning in primary school were satisfied with the timing of first exposure, 31% would have liked to have started learning earlier, and 67% of students wanted more hours dedicated to sexuality education topics.
- Almost all students (93%) considered sexuality education useful or very useful in their personal lives. Nearly a third (30%) reported that they did not receive this information from their parents.
These statistics show that more needs to be done in terms of educating the youth about sex. Some other issues that draw controversy about sex education include;
- The age at which the child is exposed to sex education
- The number of details they receive
- The topics to be discussed about sexuality and behavior, e.g., safe sex practices, masturbation
Religion also plays a massive role in the matter where most, if not all, dictate for abstinence until marriage. This, therefore, creates an impasse and complicates the issue further.
A quick google search will inform you that countries that have adopted sex education when children are younger have witnessed a reduction in sexual crimes, teenage pregnancies, lower rates of STD’s and has fostered better decision making among the youth.
We should find a meeting point where our children are equipped with the right information while still maintaining our values, cultures, and traditions. Parents, schools, and churches should play their part in informing their youth on all things that pertain to sex and sexuality and stop the blame game. When all is said and done;
- Teenagers are having sex regardless
- They are living risky lives because of lack of information
- They fall into peer pressure and make wrong decisions
- They risk getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases
- Without proper education, they might get into immoral activities like prostitution and pornography
Remember the famous methali that our parents drummed into our heads when growing up; ASIYEFUNZWA NA MAMAYE, HUFUNZWA NA ULIMWENGU! Why doesn’t it apply here? Double standards much?
Sex education is an essential topic that we should not shy away from and should be embraced by all parties involved. Meaningful content and age appropriateness is recommended as the fate of the youth definitely lies in our hands.
So, dear parent, sex education or no?