By Aishat M. Abisola
A few weeks ago, I read that the federal government ordered the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) to remove sex education from the basic school curriculum. This decision was made by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
This followed the call by experts that sex education should be placed in the hands of parents and religious institutions so that it would not be taught in schools in ways that would not further “corrupt” young children with phones and access to technology.
Adamu stated that since Nigeria is a religious country, morals and values should be taught in Mosques and Churches, adding that it would bring up children with strong morals and reduce the rate of out-of-school children.
When I read this, I was shocked for many reasons. First of all, the introduction of sex education into the basic education curriculum is still recent, and most schools are not even implementing it.
When I was in secondary school, my classmates and I were mainly taught about the biological and chemical aspects of reproduction, not the elements concerning sex and sexuality.
Secondly, how are they sure that sex education has not benefited the youths who are barely taught about it in schools?
Sex education can be defined as teaching and learning about a myriad of topics related to sex and sexuality. It dives into the values and beliefs regarding these topics. It helps people gain skills they will need to navigate their relationships with themselves, their partners, and their community and helps them manage their sexual health.
Sex education can be taught anywhere, in one’s house, school, community setting with trusted individuals, or online. As I stated earlier, I was not taught much about sex education in secondary school.
Luckily, my parents were there to answer my questions on sexual education and even imparted helpful knowledge that has helped me a lot in many ways.
When I learnt more about sex education and focused on what my parents taught me, I learned more about myself, my body, and how I could improve in terms of mental and physical health.
Despite common misconceptions that sex education corrupts children when taught about it at school, sex education can be more beneficial than you might expect. The full description of what sex education entails is as follows:
This involves human anatomy, puberty and how it will affect them both physically and mentally, sexual orientation (the different types of sexual orientations), and gender identity (what it means to be male or female).
Relationships consist of Interpersonal relationships such as family, friendships, romantic relationships, and relationships with healthcare practitioners.
This involves areas surrounding communication, boundaries, negotiations, and decision-making.
Sexual education covers the areas that deal with sexual health, like sexually transmitted diseases, Birth Control, and pregnancy.
Society and Culture
This involves Media Literacy, Shame, and stigmatisation associated with sex and sexual education, the way that power, identity, and oppression can affect sexual wellness and reproductive freedom.
But besides all this, my main concern is how sex education is so callously put in the hands of religious leaders and institutions.
Most parents can be trusted to impart their knowledge about sex education to their children so they are more aware and careful.
On the other hand, religious leaders and institutions cannot be trusted in the same way.
Historically and in recent times, both religious leaders and religious institutions have been known to use children’s lack of sexual knowledge against them in ways most foul.
Priests, pastors, and Imams have preyed on young children entrusted to them by unsuspecting parents.
The more commonly known religious institution to do so are the Catholics, but other religious institutions and their leaders have done the same.
In some Islamiyah (Islamic religious learning academies), Imams have inappropriately touched young children they were supposed to care for.
Some examples would be a French Catholic church that was reported after discovering that its clergy and lay members had sexually abused at least 330,000 children over the past 70 years.
Another example would be a young girl from Lagos whom a Friar sexually abused at her parish church. In 2020, an Imam had taped himself raping a five-year-old girl, and earlier this year, in July, another Imam was arrested for the sexual abuse of seven children.
In October this year, another Imam was arrested for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old. Men (Women as well) who are placed into positions of power are more often than not predators who seek to prey on those weaker than them.
These days, anyone can become an Imam or a pastor. Because of the relaxed nature in discerning whether someone is an actual man/woman of god or whether they can be trustworthy in a position of power, many people get hurt.
Young children should not be placed in their care, nor should they be allowed to discuss sex education with them.
For all we know, they could teach these young and highly impressionable children wrong things and could hurt them badly in the long run.
Statistics have shown that when children have been sexually abused, there is a high likelihood that they will go on to commit the same injustices that were performed on them.
Ultimately, it will perpetuate a cycle of pain and torment.
Appropriately trained sexual education professionals should be tasked with training children on what they need to know about sex education from a young age. This way, they will learn more about their bodies and the best way to know if what is being done to them is right or wrong.
Along with this, their community should also take care of children.
If more than one eye is trained on a child, then any odd behaviour will be noted and told to their parents so that they can take the proper actions necessary.
With these two in hand, parents won’t need to rely on religious leaders or religious institutions to teach children about sex education when children are more likely to be abused by them.
Perhaps then, the government will have more trust in the education system instead of leaving such a delicate and complicated matter in the hands of people who would instead make matters worse than fix anything.
Children are blank canvasses, and teaching them the right things will make lovely and ethereal colours glow on their canvas, but teaching them in the wrong manner will damage it.
Children are the hopes and future of their parents and forefathers; It is with them that a legacy of peace, faith, and kindness is ensured.
I hope whoever reads this takes my words to heart and acts righteously for these children who might be led astray due to improperly placed trust.
Aishat M. Abisola is a member of the Society for Health Communication, Wuye District, Abuja, via Aishatmohd02@gmail.com.