Garcia: No condoms in schools
Minister of Education Anthony Garcia has acknowledged that students in both primary and secondary schools are engaging in sexual activity.
But he said distributing condoms in schools will never be allowed.
Garcia was responding to questions from reporters during a news conference at the Ministry of Education on Friday.
On Wednesday, Ministry of Health officials told a Joint Select Committee that efforts were made to distribute condoms in schools but the move was met with resistance.
Garcia said condoms are not necessary in schools.
“We will always resist that,” he said.
“If we encourage the distribution of condoms to students, it means that we will be encouraging sexual activity. And as a responsible Ministry, we cannot allow that.”
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan also said handing out condoms to students was not the way to address the issue. He added that schools could not legally do this as sex below a certain age is illegal.
Instead, the Education Ministry’s focus is on promoting abstinence, he said.
Garcia also addressed the issue of five primary school children who were revealed to be infected with HIV.
He said the children were born with the disease and were not infected as a result of any sexual activity.
He added that the children will remain in the school system as they could not be denied an education because of their illness.
“No child must be discriminated against. Every child must have access to an education,” he said.
The Education Minister assured that proper measures were in place to treat with HIV positive children in schools.
Seecharan noted that procedures are in place to ensure other students and staff are not at risk and that confidentiality is maintained.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai also noted that every child has a right to an education regardless of their circumstances.
“Not because a child has an STD must they be barred from an education,” he said.
However he acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns about HIV positive children who may get injured in school and others would be exposed to their blood.
He said staff need to be able to know what to do in such situations.
Regarding the teaching of sex-ed in schools, Doodhai said many teachers do not feel they are competent enough to do this.
He said this must be overcome.
Seecharan however said sexual education is already part of the school curriculum, and primary school children are exposed to it in an age-appropriate manner.
At the secondary school level, more focus is placed on abstinence and giving students information to guide their choices, he said.
He added that there would be collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to complement sexual education teaching in schools.