ZIO MWALE, Lusaka
A FEW days ago, the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) appealed to parents and guardians to impart sound moral values in youths.
ZCCB argued that the trend where children get involved in pre-marital sex is worrying and should be stopped because this leads to moral degradation.
“We urge parents to take this task seriously. Parents should be monitoring their children’s movements and take discipline because a child should not be left to house maids or teachers at schools,” ZCCB communications director Winfield Kunda said.
About a week ago, police in Lusaka apprehended about 70 girls and boys in Lusaka’s Woodlands area for allegedly engaging in illicit activities, including sex and beer drinking. The boys and girls, aged between 17 and 20 years, were picked up from a house on Lake Road after a concerned citizen in the neighbourhood raised alarm.
Police spokesperson Esther Mwaata-Katongo said police officers who rushed to the scene found used condoms and empty beer bottles.
One would therefore understand why ZCCB is concerned about imparting moral values in youths; they do not want the task of imparting morals left to maids and teachers, instead, parents and guardians should take an active role.
As to whether it is traditionally acceptable for parents to talk with their children on issues of sex it is clear that children are actively engaged in sexual activities.
The story of the 70 girls and boys busted in Woodlands is proof of that.
It is the reason perhaps why comprehensive sexuality education was introduced in Zambia’s education curriculum three years ago.
Launched by the Ministry of education, the lessons were integrated into the curriculum for grades five through to 12 in all schools across the country. But even though the lessons have been integrated into the curriculum, there are still some existing challenges around delivering sex education by teachers in Zambian schools.
“We lack teaching materials, we teachers are ready to deliver but it’s challenging because we don’t have books that can easily guide us,” says Ketty Kabaso, 26, a teacher at Petauke Day Secondary School in Eastern Province. “Teachers, especially in rural areas, face challenges in delivering CSE [comprehensive sexuality education] to pupils because of cultural barriers and lack of appropriate CSE material to teach the subject across different grades.”
Ms Kabaso says while teachers are perceived by pupils as the most credible and trustworthy people who can talk about anything, including sexuality, it is difficult to share the right information with them when the teachers themselves are ignorant about sex education.
“There is a need for sufficient and proper training programmes on how to teach CSE in schools as well as social support from community members,” she says.
“We rank high on the list of young people’s preferences of sexuality education deliverers, but few teachers are trained in workshops to deliver CSE,” she explained.
“Some community members, especially in villages, think that CSE influences pupils negatively, like in my case, pupils simply feel uncomfortable once I talk about sex in class.”
Though the school is located in the central part of the district, most pupils that enrol at the school are from nearby villages where sex topics are taboo.
She explained that most of the pupils at her school come from homes where it is traditional that sex related issues should be taught to them only by their grandparents or traditional counsellors.
“Pupils find it really difficult to learn, especially if the teacher is of the opposite sex, for them culture does not allow, it is disrespectful for them,” she explained.
“Some parents especially in the rural areas have a myth that educating children in the area of sexual behaviour and morality should belong to parents alone.”
For example, Ms Kabaso explained that CSE encourages use of protection if a child cannot abstain but a parent in a rural set up simply thinks one is encouraging pupils to go and have sex before marriage.
“Talking openly about sexuality is not an easy thing, because it’s something unheard of in typical rural areas. Parents at home are also closed up on their children, so I think the information we try to deliver in class helps,” she says.
For Ms Kabaso, her plea is to have reading materials, community support and proper teacher training in order to lessen early pregnancies, abusive relationships and protection from HIV/AIDS and other related diseases.
“I am only complaining because I see the need to get more involved in teaching CSE because of the way our society hides information on sexuality,” she says. “I remember growing up and being told that if you sit next to a boy at school, you would conceive. I don’t want the current generation to go through what we went through.”
National Alliance on Monitoring of the Implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Education in East and Southern Africa secretary Tendai Chiweshe says that some teachers support the teaching of sexuality education in schools but they may lack the knowledge, skills and confidence to handle sexuality education sessions in a classroom.
“The alliance has encountered situations where teachers have no idea about CSE, but we expect them to teach,” Mr Chiweshe says.
“CSE is very important in young people’s lives because it equips them to deal with different issues, covering not only sexuality and disease prevention but also human rights, gender equality, communication skills and respectful relationships.
“Teachers are receiving insufficient training as far as teaching of sex education is concerned. Only a few teachers are trained in workshops, and the days are not enough for them to fully understand.”
He notes that the lack of social support from fellow teachers as well as overcrowded classrooms have been observed as critical barriers to teachers’ unsuccessful implementation of school-based sexual education.
On insufficient teacher training, Ministry of general education permanent secretary Henry Tukombe says that the ministry has introduced CES components in teaching courses in order for teachers to deliver proper CSE to the pupils.
“The ministry introduced a full package for training teachers… teachers currently training are undergoing the training in different colleges,” Mr Tukombe says.
He explained that in-service teachers should try by all means to work with the ministry by dedicating themselves to study more and understand CSE.
Mr Tukombe says that teachers should be able to deliver CSE because existing teachers will continue undergoing training until the challenge is met.
And United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) programme officer of education and curriculum Mwilu Mumbi says that training existing teachers in CSE is still quite a challenge.
“The Ministry of Education with its partners like UNESCO is continuously training teachers to meet the existing challenges,” Mr Mumbi says.
“The training of in-service teachers commenced immediately CSE was introduced and zonal coordinators have been trained to help train other teachers in different schools. It is only through training that teachers will learn and understand the information there are supposed to deliver.
“Books for all grades are already printed and will soon be distributed in all schools. Books have been a challenge but we want to assure teachers that books on CSE will soon be in schools but teachers must read and understand the information in order to be knowledgeable enough.”