By Taye Obateru
Jos – The need to shed cultural/traditional beliefs or practice which make the discussion of matters relating to sex or sexuality with children has been gaining ground in Nigeria and Africa in recent times. If anyone was in doubt about this, the approval in 2001 by the Federal Government of a curriculum on Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) removed it.
The approval gave the Federal Ministry of Education the responsibility of providing guidelines for learners, teachers and other stakeholders in the education sector. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) was further mandated to standardize materials to be used for implementing the curriculum.
In line with the objectives of the policy, the various state Ministries of Education established units for the implementation of the curriculum with desk officers appointed to coordinate affairs. The programme received a boost in Plateau State with the cooperation a non-government body â€“ Youth, Adolescents Reflection and Action Centre (YARAC) â€“ which, with a grant from MacArthur Foundation, partnered the education ministry to achieve the objectives of the FLHE programme.
Speaking at the 2009 Annual MacArthur Foundation Granteesâ€™ Network Meeting in Jos, YARACâ€™s Director, Dr. Tor Iorapuu said a lot of ground has been covered in educating teachers and school children on sexuality education. According to him, YARAC decided to sign a memorandum of understanding with the ministry after a baseline survey showed that â€œthe journey for the attainment of adolescent and youth sexual health and rights is still very far.
This by implication meant that all stakeholders need to channel more programmed to educate and empower young people to become responsible adults tomorrow.â€The partnership with the ministry, he said was towards mainstreaming the nationally approved FLHE programme in junior secondary schools in Plateau State.
He listed the specific objectives of the partnership to include; improving the knowledge, attitude and practices of young people on sexuality and reproductive health through mainstreaming sexuality education in 217 junior secondary schools within three years and enhancing the capacity of 434 teachers and 217 school administrators to implement the FLHE through training. Iorapuu disclosed that a scheme of work jointly developed by the Plateau State Education Resource Centre and his organization has been integrated into the teaching of Integrated Science and Social Studies in junior schools.
However, he lamented that the persistent loss of teachers trained under the partnership to â€œgreener pasturesâ€ was posing a big challenge. To address the problem, the stakeholders, according to him, agreed on the need to expand the scope of the project to pre-service schools (i.e. teacher training institutions).
After preliminary steps, the Federal College of Education, Pankshin and the state College of Education, Gindiri were brought in resulting in the training of about 60 teachers on the teaching of FLHE which was designed into courses taught student teachers at the colleges. This, he explained was to ensure that graduates of the schools, as future teachers, are equipped with knowledge and skill to teach FLHE.â€œThis to YARAC is a more holistic and progressive way of programming the implementationâ€.
On the impact of the project so far, Iorapuu said monitoring and evaluation exercises has shown an increase in studentsâ€™ knowledge in sexual and reproductive health as a result of inter-personal peer to peer communication. According to him, students were becoming aware of risky sexual behaviours and appreciate the benefits of delaying sexual relationships.
â€œIf we are to build a culture where young people are able to grow into responsible citizens, we need to further support their learning. The implementation of the FLHE curriculum is the fundamental democratic right of young people and there is need for more state involvement in terms of finance. The results have been encouraging but we would like to see even moreâ€, he conclud