Sunday, July 21, 2024
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HomeEducatorsSexuality Education in Uganda: A Battle Royale.

Sexuality Education in Uganda: A Battle Royale.

Sexuality: an awareness of one’s attraction to the same or opposite sex or one’s ability to engage in sexual activity. The commonest advice about sex in Uganda is to wait till marriage to have it, backed up by threats of unwanted pregnancies, contraction of sexually transmitted infections, becoming a family disgrace and promises of a desolate future for the one who dares to defy.

Sexuality Education in Uganda has had its fair share of controversies, with many schools advocating for sexual purity, a few brave ones teach their students safe sex while in others, it remains a topic in Science, the elaborate images of genitalia attracting silly giggles from the learners. The teaching of the what, how, precautions and aftermath of human sexual interactions, their relation to life and career development, with the aim of equiping learners to make healthy and sustainable sexual choices is what defines Sexuality Education.

However, this is not the full experience in majority of schools, only the parts that tickle the country’s cultural and religious policies.
In 2016, a parliamentary ban on comprehensive sex education beyond abstinence was imposed, with strong influence from religious institutions, who proclaimed that Sex is a sacred act and teaching about contraceptives is not relevant to young, unmarried people. They argued that students exposé to other sexual choices like condom use and contraceptive pills would encourage promiscuity and thus reduce the participants to friendship with the Devil. Cultural leaders equally supported this ban with claims that sexuality education should be done accordingly to the learners’ cultural or tribal beliefs and by self-proclaimed sexperts. But with the current burden of HIV/AIDS infections, increased teenage pregnancies, rising cases of child sexual abuse and numerous street children roaming around Kampala, are those strategies still unexpired? Later in May 2018, this ban was lifted with the development of a National Sexuality Education Framework by the Ministry of Education and Sports. The main purpose of this framework is to support learners in making healthy choices about their sexuality and reproductive health. It
encompasses topics such as sexual abstinence, menstrual health and hygiene, reporting sexual abuse, human reproduction, puberty and pregnancy prevention, tailored for students at different levels of education. Though this approach is well intended, its implementation currently faces criticisms as discussed below.

Challenges in Delivering Sexuality Education

Firstly, the religious and cultural influence in Uganda. The 2018 National Sexuality Education
Framework is still highly supportive of abstinence from sex; even though the use of
contraceptives, STIs are mentioned, they are stained with disdain that inscripts the recipients
with thoughts of reduced self-worth and zero productivity should they have a sexual encounter.
Additionally, this task is carried out by mostly community service and faith-based organizations, who exercise this in selected schools and community spaces. Such organisations have specific moral intents that do not explicitly caution against issues happening in the real world such as homosexuality, bisexuality, pornography and masturbation. This “appetizer” offered to learners leaves them with the urge to uncover these things through stories from much smarter peers and
experience, a defiler of all innocence.

Secondly, many government schools are short of appropriate infrastructure to facilitate
paramount learning, for example, desks, textbooks, sufficient teaching staff and nutritious school lunch. Talking about sex to a class of hungry pupils whereby they cannot even see picture illustrations of the topic at hand is like trying to pin down a cloud!

Thirdly, emphasis has been on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. While we are empathetic for loved ones lost and the huge amount of donor funding that this disease has granted to government officials, it has left other sexually transmitted illnesses lurking in the shadows and slowly engulfing the unaware teenagers. STIs such as Trichomoniasis, Genital Herpes and Gonorrhea should be equally explained in sexuality talks.

Fourthly, there is a lack of approved written material that standardizes sexuality education in the Ugandan context. That developed from outside countries is commonly conflicted by, again, our cultures and religions. Religion will loudly applaud child birth in the context of marriage while Traditional societies generally cherish the ability to give birth to offsprings so how dare you propose safe medical abortion or tubal ligation as a solution to an unplanned pregnancy even though that could save the victim a lifetime of misery?
Finally, parents and guardians are not adequately filling the gap of informing those in their care about sexuality. Many Ugandan teenagers can testify to being whisked off to paternal relatives’ homes, church camps or stern warnings whenever questions about sex and the opposite gender arose. Worse still, these adults have miserably failed to model healthy sexuality with many guilty of polygamy, prostitution, and dwelling in conjested areas like slums and one roomed houses where hints of sexual activity can be witnessed.
On another note, the deteriorating economic status of the country has parents working long hours to make ends meet and their absence leaves no time to talk about sex. Many children are left in care of older siblings or nannies who equally lack knowledge about sexuality, thus television soap operas and testaments from their sneaky peers introduce them to the world of sex.

Why Sexual Education Cannot Wait
Truth be told, someday, that little child who was fascinated by falsehoods about Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy will grow up and soon be faced with choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Children are very observant and curious therefore it is important that the wholesome age-appropriate sexuality information is provided to them in a manner that allows free interactions about this topic.
In addition, the usage of the internet as a source of information is wide spread in Uganda
meaning that learners are exposed to all sorts of sexual perversion. The outside world presents us with trends such as homosexuality, masturbation and group sex which can be very enticing for the young people. Efforts to regulate young people’s internet access, television programming and movements can still be futile as learning and sexual curiosity can be satisfied by peers, advertisements or just observing family and societal behaviours.

Lastly and most importantly, while our focus is mostly on consensual sex, non consensual sex in forms of defilement and inappropriate body touches is roaming around in our society. Individuals out there are battling sex, alcohol and drug addictions, mental illnesses or just plain stupidity which prompts them to become threats to growing children. A youngester ignorant of sex and sexuality will be baffled when he/she is thrust into sexual activity and this creates risk of depression, manipulation, low productivity, death by suicide and worse, become like the villains that initiated their detriment.
Sexuality Education in Uganda might currently lack an acceptable approach but we are not
rivaling Impossible here. The 2018 National Sexuality Education Framework is only the
beginning of combatting sexual unawareness among students. It is important that all
stakeholders, that is parents, guardians, cultural, religious and political leaders, atheists,
educators and policy makers come together to consolidate an approach that will assist the young ones in embracing rather than being afraid of their sexuality.

Liz Kawalya
Elizabeth Kawalya is a Scientist who loves to know it all and to compel others to embark on the journey of finding out for themselves! Born in Bweyogerere, Wakiso district, Uganda, she was raised with six siblings by a single mother. She currently works as a medical laboratory assistant and part-time sous chef. Nature, the current social-political environment and personal experience are her greatest inspiration from which she creates original content with the aim of captivating her audience with accurate, relatable and entertaining writings.


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