Wednesday 2 December, 2020

FPATT backs Shamfa on push for sex-ed in schools

While the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister’s suggestion that sex education be taught in schools didn’t find favour with the Trinidad and Tobago Council of Evangelical Churches (TTCEC), the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) has spoken in support of her call.

In endorsing Minister Shamfa Cudjoe’s position, FPATT said to not teach comprehensive sexuality education in schools is unpardonable, especially given that research has proven that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) creates healthy and responsible sexual and reproductive health behaviours among young people.

The TTCEC was of the view that sex education in schools would result in increased sexual immorality, however, the FPATT said CSE can offer an appropriate framework to equip children with the knowledge and the skills, to enable them to better understand the responsibilities and risks associated with their sexual and reproductive health. 

Noting the churches’ concern that “any and everybody” should not be tasked with teaching children about sex, FPATT said it offers training to teachers and schools to ensure that CSE is approached responsibly.

“We believe that the school setting provides an ideal environment to educate young people about sex before they become sexually active. It is a much better approach than to leave our young people to learn negative attitudes about sex and sexuality in the street, or the unregulated media,” FPATT continued.

FPATT also agreed with Cudjoe’s stance, that talking to the youth about sex should be done early as, according to a 2007 study by GSHS, a significant number of young males and females would have had their first sexual debut prior to age 13 and continue to engage in unprotected sexual activity with multiple sexual partners increasing their risk for a myriad of unfavorable outcomes.

The Association noted that the Caribbean remains a region with some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world, proving the need for sex education.

“These facts demonstrate that open, honest conversations about sexual matters with trusted adults is severely lacking at a time when it is most needed.”

It questioned why there continues to be objection from “those who should know better” to empowering children with the appropriate and correct information as a tool they can use to protect their vulnerability.

“The reality is that age-appropriate education and information are critical resources, which our children could use to make responsible decisions and even safeguard them against unsolicited and unwanted sexual exploitation.

We have a responsibility to our children, but too many of us are hung up on the misconception that comprehensive sexuality education encourages young people to have sex, or that it gives them permission to engage in what many describe as promiscuous and immoral behaviour. These perceptions cannot be further from the truth.”

FPATT is of the view that schools can support parents who often feel ill-equipped to broach subjects of sex and sexuality, rather than displace them and their responsibility.

The Association said sensitising parents, teachers, faith based organisations, local communities and other key gatekeepers and stakeholders and giving permission to discuss it with young people, are essential steps towards implementing age-appropriate CSE in schools.

“We, as the decision-makers and the adults that younger ones look up to, have a responsibility to protect them from harm and to educate them in their best interests.

As Dr. Eric Williams once said, “The children of this nation carry the future of this country in their schoolbags.” Let’s do it for them. To do less is unpardonable,” FPATT concluded.

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