By Lahja Nashuuta
The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture Deputy Director for the HIV/AIDS Management Unit Julius Nghifikwa has defended a sexually explicit module that is being used as a guide for grade four learners.
Nghifikwa claimed that the graphic content in the book is age-appropriate, medically accurate and culturally relevant.
The module is a product of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and focuses on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). According to Nghifikwa, children need to be taught at a tender age about delaying the onset of intimate sexual relationships until they are mature and responsible.
He said they must be given the information and skills to use condoms and contraception when they do choose to become sexually active.
“Definitely, we need to break the cycle of teenage pregnancy and engaging in sexual acts at an early stage, especially us black parents, we need to be open with our kids and explain to them what sex is and how going into sexual deeds with someone has a deeper meaning. Inform our kids that it’s ok to talk to mom or dad about their sexuality and how they feel when they are around the opposite sex” he said.
Nghifikwa said it is unfortunate that there are parents who are still in denial that their children are having sex as young as 10 years old.
“Look at the statistics, at what age do molestations normally occur in African families? Statistics show very early. And I must say, unfortunately, we even have church groups being the perpetrators” Nghifikwa said.
Nghifikwa believes that sexuality education should be part of the curriculum at the said stage/age, simply because not all parents are open to talk about it to their kids due to cultural beliefs and religion.
“These kids might end up getting the wrong information from friends, TV and internet, which is mostly wrong information.
They need to be taught as per their age level/ in a way that they can understand the whole content around the sexuality package. This helps on self-awareness, confidence, and assertiveness” he said.
He further said the programme is intended to address the harmful cultural belief that fuel teenage pregnancy and early child marriage as well as some religious beliefs that contradict with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
The UNFPA Comprehensive Sexuality Education module was launched in 2013 to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity, in order to develop respectfully social and sexual relationships.
However the use of the manual has created a mixed feeling with some parents expressing their concerns that the graphic content contained in the manual might encourage learners to engage in sex and inappropriate sexual contact at a tender age.
In an interview with The Patriot this week, some parents were of the opinion that by exposing such content to children as young as 10 years, it might contribute to the teenage pregnancies calamity the country is faced with.
Official statistics on pregnancy-related school drop-outs in Namibia show that over 4 000 girls dropped out of school in Namibia due to pregnancy in 2016.
The Council of Churches Head Ludwig Beukes objected to the module as it carries topics such as masturbation, anal sex and same-sex relationships. He said such material should be kept away from children under the age of 10 as it is not only age inappropriate, but also declines moral values.
Beukes described CSE as a liberal culture that promotes the sexualisation of children, homosexuality and abortion and does not fit Namibian culture.
Furthermore, the module is criticized for normalizing same sex relationships, breaking down the natural fears) between boys and girls and teachers various sexual acts.
“I am totally against Comprehensive Sexuality Education. I don’t understand why a child at such a young age should be taught about anal sex, masturbation, etc. Then we might as well do away with putting a parental guide on movies and mom and dad might as well start doing it in their presence so that they learn from home,” Nelao Micolo, a mother of a grade 4 learner stressed.
She further said “our kids are very curious. What they learn at school will not just stop in the classrooms. Sexual offenders will use this as the platform to take advantage of kids”.
Micolo said it is worrisome to expose such content as some of them might be curious and want to practise what they have learned in classrooms.
Another mother who preferred to be called Mrs Kambambi said she recently went to his son’s school to find out what the curriculum for 4 entails after her 9 year-old son came home and he was talking about wet dreams and periods.
“Then the teacher showed me the grade 4 life skills book and it is all there, sexual feelings, wet dreams, masturbation etc. I felt like he is too young to know because he didn’t really understand the concept but they told me that it’s a chance for us parents to have these discussions with the kids how we want them to understand” she said.
Josephina Thomas who also expressed her concern regarding the graphic content on the grade 4 life skills book said, “I think there is a reason why they are called kids. Children under the age of 10 cannot be trusted with such information because they are in any case not responsible,” Thomas said.
She therefore advised the government to rather invest time and resources on improving the quality of education by buying study material such as textbooks which are not available as well as to employ more teachers.
The Patriot also spoke to a mother who spoke in support of the CSE.
“Being a mother of two fairly young girls I’ve started small. When they bath- I tell them “this is your privacy, you should never let anybody touch you there and if it ever happens, you must tell me. Nobody is going to kill you or kill me if you tell me and you shouldn’t keep any secrets.”