Making the Connection - News and Views on Sexuality: Education, Health and Rights

A quarterly international newsletter on sexuality, sexual health, and sexuality education.

Volume 1, Issue 1 Spring/Summer 2000

 

NIGERIA

APPROVAL OF GUIDELINES FOR COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA FOR NIGERIAN SCHOOLS

In January 1999, Action Health Incorporated, a leading adolescent sexual and reproductive health organization based in Lagos, organized and held a multi-disciplinary conference of government leaders, NGOs and international UN agencies to develop a national strategy and policy on adolescent reproductive and sexual health.

As a result of this conference and the efforts of NGOs like AHI, the federal Ministry of Education made a historic commitment to implementing sexuality education throughout Nigerian schools. The declaration was made at the 46th annual meeting of the National Council on Education (NCE) held in Abeokuta, Nigeria in March 1999. Nigeria is in the process of working on an implementation strategy for sexuality education in all public schools throughout the country. The following is the official memorandum from the Ministry of Education in its entirety.

 

MEMORANDUM BY THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

 

1.         INTRODUCTION

Sexuality education is a life long process of acquiring information and forming attitude, beliefs, and values about one's identity, relationship and intimacy. It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles.

Sexuality education addresses the biological, social-cultural, psychological and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from:

The cognitive domain

The affective domain

                        The behavioural domain.

 

Including the skills to communicate effectively and make responsible decisions.

1.         Assist individuals in having a clear and factual view of sexuality; i.e. the totality of who they are as human being males or females.

2.         Provide them with information and skills about taking care of their sexual health; Help them acquire skills to make decisions related to their health and development now and in the future.

 

2.         TRENDS IN THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH STATUS OF NIGERIAN ADOLESCENTS

We are all living witnesses to the present trends in our young people's sexual and reproductive health lives. Before now, virginity was a virtue and the norm was for a Nigerian girl to go to her husband's house on her wedding day as a virgin. Not anymore; many parents now insist on the bride-to-be "sprouting" a pregnancy: before they agree to contract the marriage. This is done simply to secure assurance that her womb is still intact and that she can bear them grandchildren to keep on the family name. Research has shown:

·                    7 out of every 10 males and 5 out of every 10 females attending secondary school in Nigeria are sexually active or have had sexual relations at least once.

·                    Over 80% of patients presenting at Nigerian Hospitals with abortion related complications are adolescent girls.

·                    In Nigeria, 15-29 year olds accounted for 62% of all the AIDS cases among females between 1986-1995.

Young boys and girls are now being denied admission into our Medical and Dental Schools because they tested HIV-positive.

Much more than ever before, the time has come for us as a country reputed for caring and valuing our children, to "take the bull by the horn" and address the sexual health hazards being posed to our children's lives.

 

3.         THE MYTH VERSUS THE FACT ABOUT SEXUALITY EDUCATION

The provision of sexuality education has continued to be a sensitive issue in Nigeria because of the fear that provision of such education will arouse young people's curiosity and encourage sexual activity. This is a myth. The fact is that scientific evidence disproves this claim. According to the review commission by the World Health Organisation in 1993, there is no support for the contention that sexuality education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. After analyzing more than 1,000 reports on sexuality education programmes worldwide, it was concluded that the course did not lead to earlier sexual intercourse rather, in many cases the result was a delay in the initiation of sexual activity. This is because the content of these courses is largely about providing factual information and skill ­building; skills that equip our children to take responsible decisions about their future.

 

4.         THE GUIDELINE FOR COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

 

The Guideline for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria "was developed by the National Guideline Task Force, which was comprised of 20 governmental and non-governmental organizations working in the area of adolescent health, education and development in the country. The book which was released to the public by the former Minister of State for Education, Mrs. Iyabo Anisulowo in 1996 has its foreword written by Prof. Olikoye RansomeKuti, former Minister of Health, was developed to fill the yawning gap between the information and services young people ought to receive and what is actually delivered to them.

It serves as an important step to help young people acquire accurate knowledge and develop responsible behaviour that will help reduce the present high rate of unwanted teenage pregnancy, complication from unsafe induced abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, being witnessed in the country today.

The guidelines provide answers to many important questions like: "What key concept should be taught in sexuality education?" and "At what age should specific information be taught?" The framework presented in the book should serve as a guide to be used to conduct sexuality education sessions for school age youths, as well as for parents and relevant communities.

The Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria has already been reviewed by over 70 national organizations that have given written endorsements for its use for providing guidance to young people across the country.

 

5.         PRAYER

In the light of the above, The Council is respectfully invited to:

a.         Note that the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education is based on a carefully constructed, scoped and sequenced approach to the delivery of sexuality education which takes full cognizance of our cultural and religious needs.

b.         Note that it provides a more realistic starting point for curriculum development at the national level and will guide state policy makers and local education authorities in evaluating existing or proposed programmes.

c.         Note that its availability has solved once for all, the issue of what key concepts to teach in sexuality education, at what age. Specific information should be taught and how to teach it.

d.         Urge the approval of the use of the "Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education" in schools in Nigeria as the basis for providing appropriate guidance that will ensure a better quality of health and life for our young people.

 

Federal Ministry of Education

Abuja