Nigerians are divided over giving of sexuality education to children in schools, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey in some South West states and Kwara has revealed.
The stakeholders said in separate interviews with NAN that policy makers must handle the issue with caution to avoid backlash.
In Lagos, a former Minister of Education, Prof. Chinwe Obaji, supported the call for the introduction of sexuality education in schools, but said it should be taught at senior secondary school level.
Obaji told NAN that in as much as it was important to teach the subject, it should not be the primary level.
“At the primary school level, I will say no. The parents should take charge of that at home, but in schools, such education could be introduced, beginning with the Senior Secondary class.
“The teaching of sex education to children is welcomed but we must be careful how and when we introduce this to them.
“For children, who are still in primary school and junior secondary schools, such education should be imparted to the children by their parents.
“This is because they understand the development of these children better than the teachers.
“The children are always there with their parents and in most cases, they have so much confidence in their mothers,’’ the former minister said.
Mrs Florence Ubajekwe, Coordinator, Children and Women against Child Sexual Abuse Initiative, said in Lagos that sexuality education was the responsibility of parents, teachers and members of the society.
Ubajekwe told NAN that sex education should start with parents, adding that it is an important subject that would help protect the health of the children and their future.
The coordinator said the major problem facing Nigeria parents and children was the shame and secrecy of discussing sex matters.
“A mother should mention every part of the child’s body from head to toe and call them by their names not nicknames,’’ she said.
Ubajekwe also said sexuality education would enable parents have control over what the children are exposed to about sex.
She noted that children, who received sex education at home, were less likely to engage in risky sexual activities.
“Sexual education increases the chances of teenagers having the courage to approach their parents and discuss with them when they are faced with difficult or dangerous situations.’’
According to her, parents and teachers must collaborate to educate the children on sex and what they should expect as it relates to puberty as they grow.
“From age five to eight, teach them body parts including the private parts, internal reproductive organs and to say ‘No’ to advances and sexual abuse.
“From age nine to 12, talk about friendship, family member relationship, puberty sign in details, menstruation, ejaculation, wet dreams in boys, sex, pornography and pregnancy,’’ Ubajekwe said.
An educationist, Mrs Gladys Grimmes also supported the introduction of sexuality education in schools, saying it would equip students to recognise the dangers of immorality at an early age.
She noted that the rate of sexual abuse of children has become a national embarrassment, stressing that it was necessary to educate the children on what to do when faced with such challenge.
In Ibadan, an activist, Mr Sola Fagorusi, said sexuality education should be taught right from primary school as children spend most of their productive hours in schools away from parents.
Fagorusi, who is the Programmes and Media Manager of OneLife Initiative for Human Development, an NGO, said sexuality education would help instil life-time values.
“The average child basically spends more time within the circle of educational institution than with parents during his or her productive hours each day.
“So, if anybody should be responsible for sexuality education, it should not just be the parents alone, it should also be the responsibility of the teachers.
“Teachers are preparing the students to be better citizens in life and we forget the most important part of the child’s life that shapes their futures.
“You cannot suppress individual sexuality especially at that time when children are growing up.
“ The hormones are busy and it is a period of self-awareness and curiosity.
“I strongly feel that sexuality education should be allowed in our school environment,” he said.
Fagorusi said that there should be comprehensive syllabus that includes such subject areas like values and value clarification.
“Sexuality education shouldn’t be looked strictly at the angle that we want to corrupt these children.
“Nobody goes to them about condom use or sticking to one partner; when we talk to young people, we tell them the only credible option is abstinence,” he said.
Fagorusi said that sexuality education should be in stages based on the age of the child.
Mrs Abebola Olubimo, a mother and sociologist, said sexuality education would give children the power to prevent themselves from sexual abuse.
“Knowledge, they say is power, and sexuality education should be taught in schools.
“I remember we had some semblance of sexuality education back in our days, but the information provided was not adequate.
“ It should not be a responsibility left to the parents because many parents shy away from it and feel it is inappropriate.
“Children are the nation’s future, sexuality education has direct overall effect on their development and so it should be a civic responsibility,” she said.
According to her, evidenced-based reports shows that many teenagers learn about sex and sexuality mostly from friends, the internet and television.
“If you do not teach them, someone else will; and it is very much likely to be the wrong information.
“It is important we let kids also know the concept of sexuality of two individuals; of two different sexes.
“Our responsibility as caregivers is to guide.
“Let them understand what the dangers are. What worked for us is not working for them.
“ Don’t let them go through extreme culture shock with the realities of our time.
“Parents and teachers should work together to guide, show them and lead them in the right path,” she said.
On the contrary, Dr Adepeju Oti, a girl-child rights activist and Executive Director, Global Youth Leadership and Girl-Child Foundation, said sexuality education should be left to parents.
“It is better taught at home, especially at lower levels.
“ Parents are presumed closer to their children. The sexual behaviour and orientation of some teachers and religious professionals makes me apprehensive to entrust it to teachers,” she said.
According to her, sexuality education is a very sensitive subject that is best approached with caution.
“Parents want to be in control of what and how much their children know about the subject even though many of them keep mute about it at home.
“However, I believe a child should know about sexuality as early as his or her curiosity begins to manifest.
“Starting from knowing his or her body and that of the other sex, I would say that should be learnt between age five to six.
“ This is because by age 10, some girls are already menstruating. Children grow faster into puberty these days.
“ The Nigerian child needs sexuality education absolutely because we are not in isolation from the rest of the world.
“There are no religious or cultural implications at all. The only fear is who is impacting the knowledge, how, and what,” she said.
Oti added that imparting sexuality education to children was very important and advised parents to learn the skills.
`‘If parents refuse to learn the skills and decline to teach their children appropriately, there is other avenues where children will ultimately learn about it and it could be fatal,” she said.
A clergyman, Pastor Femi Adekunle, said that sexuality education should not be taught in schools at all due to different sexual orientations and beliefs.
“How do you ascertain that the teacher holds the same value and belief system that the parents hold?
“There are over-zealous educators who may give the children wrong guidance. Sexuality education is important.
“While we don’t want our children to understand the subject from the wrong sources like their peers, the media, and the internet, it however, should be the responsibility of the parents,” he said.
In Osogbo, Osun Commissioner for Education, Mr Wasiu Omotunde-Young, said there was nothing wrong in providing sexuality education in schools.
Omotunde-Young told NAN that sexuality education would help prevent unwanted pregnancies and enhance healthy relationships between the opposite sex in primary and secondary schools.
The commissioner, however, said that the level at which such education would be taught would make or mar the students.
Omotunde-Young agreed that sexuality education should be incorporated in the school curriculum.
He however advised that teachers should know the subject well and impart the knowledge without promoting negative tendencies among students that might lead to unhealthy sexual relationships after class hours.
Also speaking, Dr Adebayo Obadiora, a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said it was necessary to include sexuality education in the school curriculum.
According to him, teaching of sexuality education in both primary and secondary schools should be treated as a matter of urgency.
Obadiora called for cooperation of teachers and parents, saying the subject would benefit students immensely and reduce sexual harassment.
He appealed to government to put necessary measures in place before introducing the subject, to ensure proper implementation.
The don also called on religious leaders not to relent in the teaching of morality and holiness in their sermons.
Obadiora, however, called for caution in the teaching of sexuality education in schools so as not to expose students to wrong information.
Some parents and school teachers, who spoke with NAN, also supported the teaching of sex education in school.
Mrs Banke Olujimi , a parent, said students at puberty should be enlightened on sexual issues.
Also speaking, Mrs Ronke Ola, a nurse and a mother, equally said students should be enlightened about their genitals.
According to Ola, sexuality education should not be seen as a taboo because children learn faster and learning wrong information about sex could be dangerous.
Mrs Florence Abioye, a teacher, said parents should also complement the efforts of schools by teaching their children what they needed to know about sex education at home.
She said students were willing and ready to learn about sexuality education if they would be taught.
A cleric, Pastor Ben Agboola, said there was nothing wrong in teaching sex education in schools.
Agboola said such knowledge would help both male and female students to understand God’s stance about sex.
The cleric, however, said sex education should be taught with caution so as not to send wrong message to students.
In Ilorin, another cleric, Pastor Olusegun Elijah, called for the teaching of sexuality education as a separate subject in schools.
Elijah lamented that many parents had neglected their responsibilities in teaching children about their sexuality.
“Making it a topic in a subject like Biology is not enough, because the issue of sexuality is very wide and should be made a subject on its own.
“Sex education should start from the home; parents should lay the foundation.
“Many mothers nowadays are not close to their children and have handed responsibilities to teachers of their wards in schools.
“There is home training, school training and church training; parents must do their part while teachers and clerics also do theirs,” the cleric added.
A parent, Mr Abdulrahman Azeez, said the introduction of sexuality education in schools would be a welcome development.
Another parent, Mrs Saidat Ayinla, however, said that it was good to teach sexuality education only at home.
A Christian cleric, Prophet Christopher Owolabi, disagreed with the teaching of the subject in schools, saying instead, government should channel resources toward improving the capacity of counselors in the school system.
“I’m not in support of offering sexuality education in schools when we have the school counselling unit in place.
“We only need to ensure adequate funding of the counselling units for effective service delivery,” he said.
In Ado-Ekiti, the Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Mrs Adefunke Anoma, advocated teaching of sexuality education.
She said no fewer than 30 rape cases had been reported in the state in the last eight months, stressing that every child needed to be educated on sex matters.
Prof. Kayode Ayeni, who teaches Philosophy of Education at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, said sexuality education was necessary to the advancement of decent culture.
Ayeni said any nation that fails to attach importance to it was bound to pay dearly in the long run.
A parent, Mrs Kikelomo Awodeyin, said she would never support exposure of children to sexuality education in schools, recalling how a vice principal was caught raping a 13-year-old female student in the state recently.
Another respondent, Mr Biola Akanji said he was also averse to teaching of sexuality education in schools, arguing that some teachers have no sense of control.
An undergraduate at the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti, Sola Ademola, called on government to address the issue of women and girl-child abuse.
He opined that sex education should be adopted as part of the school curriculum while parents, teachers and government at all levels must play their role in promoting sexuality education.
Wemimo Oyinloye of the Centre for the Advancement of Women and Child Development, Ado Ekiti, also expressed support for the teaching of sexuality education in schools and at home.
She advocated that such education should start from secondary schools and for those in primary school from the age of 10.
” If government fails to inculcate sex discipline in children right from elementary school, negative advancement in the world will make them learn it in a more terrible way from elsewhere,’’ he said.
In Akure, Pastor Peter Paul of Redeemed Christian Church of God, said sexuality education should be taught from the moral and religious perspective.
“By this, I mean from the point of view of a Christian and not as it is taught today which tends to encourage school children to have safe sex instead of following sound biblical principles on sex only between married couples,” he said.
Paul said the desirability of sexuality education in schools was hinged on early preparation of children for adulthood.
“Sexuality education, therefore, should help shape a desirable future for our children where sex is handled with sacredness, given its place and taught by those with appropriate qualifications,” he said.
The clergyman, who also owns HIGS Academy in Akure, said the content of sex education should be more of abstinence and consequences for immature participants.
“Every Nigerian child needs sex education like any other child worldwide, but I sincerely postulate that the content should be in line with moral and biblical expectations.
“Thank God, Churches in recent times have began to pay serious attention to sex education of children.
“ They cannot, however, rely on the current content being bandied around by global education experts, who mostly have become disconnected from morality and sound Christian principles,” he said.
A teacher, Mr Deji Gbeje, also stressed the need for parents to be well informed on sex education so that they could teach their children sex-related matters at home.
Gbeje said that this would also empower the children to effectively manage their sexual activities, knowing the possible outcome and implications.
“If comprehensive sex education were to be taught in Nigerian schools, I am 95 percent sure that both the teachers and pupils will abuse it, most especially in the public schools. Some teachers will misinform the pupils.
“As I speak to you, there are lots of male teachers who are having love affairs with their female students both in public and private schools.
“So, I am of the opinion that sex education should be taught at home by parents and not in schools
“What this implies is that a good foundation would have been laid down for every child at home, as each parent knows how to handle their children in such areas, ” he said.
Mr Matthew Ijabo, a teacher at the Macjob Secondary School Abeokuta, said teaching sexuality education in schools would open up children knowledge to the subject at an early age and would prevent abuse.
He, however, cautioned that the process must be gradual as they grow up, to enable them imbibe the lessons with clear understanding.
The teacher also advised that the subject should be taught at the home, so that the schools would only serve a complementary role.
“We can’t just throw all information on sexuality to a child at once.
“It has to be gradual, because children at some age might not have the ability to process what their teachers or parents might be teaching on sex education.
“Religion or culture notwithstanding, what needs to be known needs to be known.
“We should stop being myopic or hypocritical and let them know what they need to know.
“The idea of considering discussion or engaging children in sex education as a taboo has made them engage in sexual activities unguided with terrible, at times, irredeemable consequences.
“It is a policy in the right direction if sexuality education is taught in schools and at homes at early stages, because sources of knowledge available to children have continued to increase with the social media.
“We are in an age of advance enlightenment and children love to experiment with the knowledge they acquire and that is why they need to be guided,” he said.
The Spokesperson, Ogun chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Tolulope Taiwo, said that the association supports the policy.
“God opposes premarital sex which is regarded as sin of fornication.
“There is nothing wrong in letting the children know this truth so that they can close their minds against it so as not to disobey or dishonour God.
“The bible also describes our bodies as the temple of God and such knowledge about the importance of their bodies will encourage children to keep their bodies holy and pure.
“Moreover, such education will arm them against bad people who might seek to take advantage of their age to lead them astray or abuse their bodies,” he said.(NAN)