I accuse the press of sex education confusion

Its purpose was to guide young people to respond to their environment as they face challenges at every milestone of reproductive growth. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Any pen bent on informing about a developmental matter should utilise the accurate diction to aid the development agenda.
  • Let all refer to authoritative technical sources like the UNAIDS, Unicef, Unesco, or well-researched entries in referenced journals for the accurate terminologies.

There has never been debate on introduction of sex education in schools yet an avalanche of writers has constantly written about it.

But there was once a well-intended conversation about Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

Its purpose was to guide young people to respond to their environment as they face challenges at every milestone of reproductive growth, using age-appropriate methodologies. It was not to be applied in schools.

Some, however, misconstrued this to mean introduction of “uncultured” or “irresponsible” themes that would abet “immorality” and compromise the moral fabric.

DEFINITION

They believed the “comprehensive” bit was a ploy to introduce contraception and condoms and tolerate same-sex relations, abortion, Kamasutra-esque notoriety and so forth. How cheap! But they scuttled the process, anyway.

Sadly, journalists have played an ignorant role in the process with screaming headlines that incessantly dethrone sexuality and amplify sex education.

Likewise, Wikipedia defines sex education as the instruction of issues relating to “human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence” and that all these aspects constitute CSE.

It also describes the merits of sexuality education in a bemusing fashion, as though sex and sexuality mean the same thing in this context! Ignore it.

MISUNDERSTANDING

This inadvertent confusion is what misleads well-intentioned players in the field of adolescent sexual reproductive health and, indeed, HIV prevention, until we all either lose or delay opportunities for development.

Let all refer to authoritative technical sources like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), UNAIDS, UNFPA, Unicef, Unesco, WHO or well-researched entries in referenced journals for the accurate terminologies.

Do not equate “sex education” to “sexuality education” or “sexual education”.

And the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education remains an instructive document to help any contributor in this subject.

The CSE chapter may be closed in Kenya but it should not be with perpetuated fallacies and ignorant bravado.

Sex education has never existed in a school known to formal education civilisation.

ACCURATE DICTION

CSE remains a demonised evidence-informed approach whose misunderstanding was orchestrated by weak knowledge by the critical players who would otherwise have supported its implementation, as well as poorly researched reporting.

At the eighth NOPE International Convention on Peer Education, Sexuality, HIV & Aids at the University of Nairobi, some reporters blamed the civil society and their sponsored forums for the type of lingo that is published.

And during a television event in the wake of the momentous Nairobi ICPD+25, there were snippets of infatuation with “sex education”.

Any pen bent on informing about a developmental matter should utilise the accurate diction to aid the development agenda instead of dangling ambivalent expressions that promote misinformation and derail meaningful debate.

More often than not, what people need is an avenue for conversation.

Mr Onyancha is an adolescent sexual and reproductive health communication expert. ponyancha@nope.or.ke.