The Public Dialogue, 'To Teach or Not Teach Sexuality Education in Our Schools: Who Decides for Us?' that was held at the Makerere University Main Hall, on Friday 22nd February, brought a numebr of things to light.
The event that was organized by Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL) to enable the public understand the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders in the formulation, adoption and implementation of an inclusive National Sexuality Education Framework (NSEF) in Uganda drew in people from all walks of life. In attendance were students, legislators, lawyers, adolescent groups, policy makers, parents, media, civil society organizations, academia, and religious leaders. The deliberations highlighted the fears about, ignorance around, loopholes in and possibility of using NSEF to address the rising sexual misconducts meted out on children, teenagers, and adolescents.
“We can actually agree that sexual abuse of a child usually begins at the age of 3-5yrs! The other day we were handlind an issue of a swimming instructor at one pool. He was meant to safe guard the children from drowning by teaching them skills of swimming, but he was giving bad touches to girls. They did not know! They thought it was a technique involved in learning,” the Keynote speaker, Henry Semakula, Senior Education Officer, Ministry of Education relayed as he showed reason why we need NSEF. The event also highlighted that NSEF is in harmony with Ugandan religious and cultural values. That it does not intend to overwhelm the students by teaching them X-rated sex education.
“Government is advocating for sexuality education, and not comprehensive sexuality education because there is a lot of inappropriate rights under the comprehensive sexuality education. Like a child having a right to choose his sex orientation, something that our national ethical values do not agree with,” Francis Mondo Kyateeka, Assistant Commissioner Ministry of Gender said. Mondo said that a 3yr old child should be taught about sexuality education. “My friend that child is living in a community, and there are various things that happen in the community. You have to teach them how to identify danger, and how to keep way from it or run away.” Some people probed NSEF saying that it is not inclusive. “It is a good initiative, but the question here should be how relevant is this policy to the adolescents? Have they even been consulted on the same, or is the Ministry imposing their own views upon them,” Esther Dhafa, a programme officer and lawyer at Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) said. “You are talking about teachers teaching about sexuality education, yet the teaches are the first perpetrators of sex abuse to our children, Dr. Josue Okoth, Senior Citizen said. “As we talk about teaching sexuality, we should think about including Everyone. As we talk about menstruation, the boys should be included in these classes to create a perspective in their minds of what girls go through during this time,” Rehemah Twiine, a Makerere 4th year Law Student advised. Carol Naturinda, a Law Student also advised the ministry to include the none school going children or teenagers since the policy seems to be addressed to school going children.
Teachers made a clarion call to be sensitized and empowered about NSEF, and how best they can inculcate it their syllabus. Semakula said that NSEF is a national framework that is going to involve every member ofteh community and not only the schools. He also highlighted that government values the religious voices, and believes that they need them to realize this policy. That is why before implementation every dissenting voice will be heard. On whether to teach or not teach, sexuality education Semakula concluded, “Lets us facilitate the discussion on sexuality education."
By Stella Nassuna