As young people grow up, they are face with important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. The decisions they make can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. They have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions.
But it is not enough for programs to include discussions of abstinence and contraception to help young people avoid unintended pregnancy or disease. Comprehensive sexual health education must do more. It must provide them with honest, age-appropriate information and skills necessary to help them take personal responsibility for their health and overall wellbeing.
Sex education is the provision of information about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions regarding sex and their sexual health.. It should include information about puberty and reproduction, abstinence, contraception and condoms, relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity and sexual orientation. It should be taught by trained teachers.
Sex education should be informed by evidence of what works best to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, but it should also respect young people’s right to complete and honest information. Sex education should treat sexual development as a normal, natural part of human development.
Sexuality is not just sexual intercourse or sexual activity. Sexuality has to do with:
- being female or male, and how females and males are alike and different in the way they look and act;
- how we view our bodies and our relationships with each other;
- how we grow and change over the years;
- who we are as women and men (girls and boys); and
- how we reproduce.
Sexuality (our feelings and behaviours) is an important part of being human, and healthy sexuality is an important part of a person’s overall health and well being. Sexual health education is key to providing children and youth with the knowledge and skills they need to ensure healthy sexual development.
Sexuality education should provide:
- Learning about physical processes related to sexuality
- Understanding individual sexual development, finding a personal identity, understanding gender roles, finding a partner, and building relationships
- Shaping a full sexual life and its understanding positive effects
- Learning about pregnancy and prenatal life
- Discovering different lifestyles and creating life plans
- Understanding sexually transmitted diseases, risks, routes of transmission, and protective options
The Role of Teachers in Sexuality Education in Nigeria
In Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa and the developing world, schools play a key role in imparting important information on health and human relations. Although too many Nigerian youth still lack access to secondary or even primary education, for those young people who do attend school, the school setting provides an important venue to transmit information and skills that can protect youth against risky behaviors. Good sexuality education focuses on love, safer sex, abstinence, respect for others and oneself, diversity, personal rights and responsibilities, relationships and friendships, effective communication, decision-making and risk behaviours.
School-based sexuality education is one of the core learning and teaching responsibilities a school undertakes to equip its students for a healthy and fulfilling adult life.
1. Communicate about sexuality and sexual health:
Throughout their lives, people communicate with parents, friends and intimate partners about sexuality. Learning to freely discuss contraception and condoms, as well as activities they are not ready for, protects young people’s health throughout their lives.
Delay sexual initiation until they are ready. Comprehensive sexual health education by the teachers teaches abstinence as the only 100 percent effective method of preventing HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy – and as a valid choice which everyone has the right to make.
2. Teach them about healthy and unhealthy relationships:
Maintaining a healthy relationship requires skills many young people are never taught – like positive communication, conflict management, and negotiating decisions around sexual activity.
A lack of these skills can lead to unhealthy and even violent relationships among youth: one in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year. Sex education by the teacher should include understanding and identifying healthy and unhealthy relationship patterns; effective ways to communicate relationship needs and manage conflict; and strategies to avoid or end an unhealthy relationship.
3. Help Students explore the body-image issues:
Most students might be faced with body image issues which in turns affects their self esteem negatively. It is the role of a teacher to make such students accept their sexuality and be confident in their own skin
4. Provide a safe environment when talking about sex:
Another role of teachers in sexuality education is to provide students with a safe environment in which to discuss their sexual issues which they might not be able to freely talk about openly.
A safe environment:
- Allows learners to feel positive and confident as they learn and ask questions.
- Is free of negative judgements.
- Discourages censorship and instead, promotes an open and honest environment.
5. Teach students about the basic rules of privacy:
Many children will develop curiosity about the body as young as 2 years old. They may start engaging in behaviours such as asking each other about their bodies, peeking at each others bodies in bathrooms, or even showing private body parts to each other. Some may also start to hug, kiss, and touch each other. At this point, it is important to talk to the students about the basic rules of privacy, such as:
- Your body is your own: They should learn that their body belongs to them and no one can touch it without their permission. They should be taught how to say “no” to kissing, hugging, and other types of physical contact they don’t want whether it is appropriate or not.
- Good touch versus bad touch: Students should be taught how to recognize appropriate and inappropriate touching. A good way to teach this is to use The Underwear Rule. This means touching anywhere that is covered by underwear is inappropriate. They should also be taught to consult with a trusted adult or family member when bad touches happen.
- Good secrets and bad secrets: Teaching students that there are bad secrets and good secrets helps prevent sexual abusers from manipulating them into keeping secrets like if they are being touched inappropriately or being abused.
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