Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Comprehensive sex education is a good thing

There are many schoolgirls who are pregnant. Regardless of the actual numbers, pregnant schoolgirls are an affirmation of failed policies. However, according to George Magoha, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, and Kepha Omae, a bishop of the Redeemed Gospel Church, pregnant schoolgirls are proof of failed parenting and pornography. In their esteemed views, if parents did a better job of looking after their children, and the Government did a better job of banning pornography, the problem of pregnant schoolgirls would be solved overnight. I fear that the education boss and the preacher are living in Ezekiel Mutua's fantasy world.

Judith Sijeny, a former nominated Senator, sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Bill in 2014 in the Senate. Among its proposals was Part IX which provided for the reproductive health of adolescents. It also provided for the termination of pregnancies by children. These two were sufficient to rile the leaders of the Christian church in Kenya and, with the assistance of the then Cabinet Secretary, Jacob Kaimenyi, to fight tooth and nail to see that the Bill was not enacted into law. It wasn't. This year, Susan Kihika, the Senator of Nakuru County, published a similar Bill containing similar provisions. It has met the same intractable resistance from the leaders of the Christian church in Kenya.

Among the accusations that were levelled at Ms Sijeny, that are also being levelled against Ms Kihika, are that the legislative proposals are part of an "agenda". Bishop Omae states forcefully that the Bills are a "conduit for other beliefs and cultures we are not used to and cannot allow in our country". He points out that "in our churches, we actually have some programmes skewed towards morality and the fear of God". None of the opposition to the legislative proposals seems to propose alternative policies or actions for the care and protection of children, or that would be skewed towards keeping schoolgirls in school and out of the maternity ward.

Education opens doors that remain closed for the uneducated. The door to a better life. The door to a relatively easier life. The door to opportunity. We are not talking about formal education alone. Education in all its forms is a good thing. It benefits individuals, families and the communities they live in. Poor access to education, or access to bad education, is evident in many ways, but for girls and women, it is almost always manifested in how early they start to have children and how many children they have over their lifetimes. Almost every time a woman has large numbers of children, her economic prospects are almost always straitened. And the younger a girl is when she has her first child, the worse her economic prospects.

Comprehensive sex education - for both boys and girls - is an important tool in creating the circumstances for young people to realise their potential, academically and economically. Comprehensive reproductive healthcare services for teenagers together with comprehensive sex education increase the chances that the numbers of child parents will be minimised. Why is this obvious point so horrific to the leaders of the Kenyan church?

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