Improving sex education in Africa to reduce inequality

Improving sex education in Africa to reduce inequality

Disparity in education is part of the root cause of social inequality in every dimension – gender included. Adolescent pregnancy is one of the reasons why many teenagers are falling out of the education system, although it is preventable by just encouraging sex education in schools.

This shows that the lack of equal access to quality education, especially in regions such as Africa where resources are lacking, can eventually pose a long-term, damaging impact to society.

Kenya is among the African countries that see high rates of teen pregnancy. A survey in one of its provinces showed 60.3% of girls aged 15-19 were sexually active, and 42% of which became pregnant – mostly unplanned. Certainly, unintended pregnancy could negatively affect them physically, mentally, and also socially.

The survey found the main problem was the girls’ lack of understanding about sex. Later, when Kenya started trying to improve its sex education program for students in urban areas, the country saw 66% decrease in its teenage pregnancy rate. However, uninformed teens in rural areas remained at risk.

Besides the quality of education, social implications from cultural values or religions also pose significant impact to whether students can properly learn about sex.

Seyoum Antonios, an Ethiopian influential figure and a leader of a conservative Christian organization, has opposed the country’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program in school. He claimed that the program is against the religious principles as it “normalizes” homosexuality and abortion. He managed to rally a lot of supporters, which later might lead to his success in obstructing students’ access to sex education.

Several academics have voiced grave concerns over the matter. Ethiopia is the second most populated African country, with a median age of 19.5 years. It means that the majority of its population are at the age when they should be properly taught about sex. Ethiopia also has high rates of adolescent pregnancy and abortion as its citizens are largely uninformed about the topic.

The United Nations has in fact attempted to solve the problem by promoting science-based education programs that would be tailored to fit each country’s contexts. UNESCO also tried to support governments in Africa to improve their health education, and encourage participation from the locals. However, these efforts faced resistance from some communities.

UNESCO health and education expert Joanna Herat said her organization believes that “access to good quality education is a human right for all, and CSE is a key part of that . . . These subjects can be sensitive in some regions, and some groups build on these through misinformation where there are already fears and concerns.”

Expanding access to quality education among children and youths, including setting up an efficient sex education curriculum, therefore should help ease sex-based discrimination and improve overall life quality of the public. It is undoubtedly one of the keys to reducing social inequality.



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