Sex education a serious matter

 The need for comprehensive sex education in schools remains paramount in Trinidad and Tobago.

This is not only because of adolescent pregnancy, which has actually been dropping, but also because of far more serious issues such as child abuse.

Ignorant of right and wrong in sexual activity, too many children remain silent when abused, with such abuse usually perpetrated by adults whom they know.

A more open attitude toward sex education is an important part of reducing child sexual abuse, as well as fostering healthier attitudes toward sex which, in time, may also reduce the number of perpetrators.

Unfortunately, we may never be rid of those who prey on the young and innocent, but with proper programmes in place in the school system, our children will be made aware of these despicable characters and raise a red flag in their own defence and that of their friends and classmates.

It is no use turning a blind eye to these situations—that has already been done for far too long—and it is time to face them head-on by educating our children from early in life.

Of course, there will be debate over the extent of what will be taught at primary school level, but there should be no further delay in implementing such a plan, so that when our children get to secondary school, they will not be naive in the way of the world and instead be assertive and confident about themselves, knowing fully well that their body is a temple and they should treat it as such.

Unnecessary deliberation will only leave the window open for the deranged ones among us to continue to find innocent victims.

The need for such an addition to school life was highlighted earlier this week by Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN under-secretary, who spoke at the University of the West Indies’ distinguished open lecture series.

“We at the UNFPA believe that comprehensive sexual education must be a part of education. The ability for the girl to understand, the ability for the girl to access correct information, and the ability for the girl to access services if she does require it is a basic right she must have,” said Dr Osotimehin.

“We know for a fact that when girls go to school and stay in school up to the age of 18, they tend not to have children, and when they do, they have fewer children and they are able to make decisions for themselves,” he added.

So on all fronts, there is no doubt about the benefits of such an approach, from primary level right through the school system.

Too many girls have had their lives thrown off the rails by an early pregnancy, with most of them being forced to leave school prematurely. In addition, their lack of higher education limits their opportunities in the world of work and they fall into a cycle of having children for any number of fathers.

The right counselling and interaction with their male peers from an early age will allow both sexes to appreciate the need to respect each other and, in turn, limit the number of schoolgirls who have their dreams shattered by an unwanted pregnancy.

Our young people are too vital a resource to continue to deny them the right to this basic knowledge that will guide them throughout their lives.

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