Thursday 29 October, 2020

TTUTA responds after teachers allegedly refuse to teach sex-ed

TTUTA acknowledged that some teachers are uncomfortable teaching about sexual education after one secondary school teacher expressed concern when teachers allegedly refused to teach sexual education classes.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA), Lynsley Doodhai, said that some teachers may refuse to teach the class because they feel they are not qualified to teach it and also that they may feel uncomfortable teaching it. 

However, the teacher, who preferred to remain anonymous, said some of the teachers refused to discuss sexual and LGBTQI+ issues.

"I am baffled. For the longest while we've been complaining and blaming the ministry of education for not implementing some sort of mandatory intervention programme which includes sex education in secondary schools at least."

"And today I sat in a staff meeting at unarguably one of the Secondary schools in the MOST NEED of such a programme and I watched teachers REFUSE to conduct the programme. I mean FLAT OUT REFUSE to participate in the programme."

"Mind you. ... the programme will be timetabled regardless of whether they have someone to teach or not. I even heard a teacher say "well schedule it, we'll just have a free period"."

Primary Health and Family Life Education

The teacher said that even after teachers were given an option for a qualified specialist to teach the sexual education element, they refused. 

"Even after the MOE offered the teachers the option to NOT teach anything regarding sexuality; offering to send someone in specifically for that part... they STILL REFUSED to teach it."

"The one thing these children need is guidance. This might be the one thing that actually fixes the major social problems they deal with. MoE is giving teachers the opportunity to have a positive impact on the young minds they have in their class and they're saying hell no."

"The most disturbing part of all this the reasoning behind their refusal. Apart from saying no in general.... they are actually refusing to teach it not because they're uncomfortable with talking about sexual intercourse, but because and I quote "I not talking not (about) no gay ting"."

"These are the people you entrust your children to every day. These are the people who are responsible for giving your precious teenager a "well-rounded education"."

Doodhai said the that the Primary Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum was introduced into the secondary school curriculum however there are no designated teachers to teach the subject.

"Under the teaching posts in the teaching service, there is no post of HFLE teacher. The Ministry of Education is relying on the goodwill of teachers to teach the subject."

"Teachers are entitled to refuse to teach the subject if they are not assessed to do so. Assessment is done on the qualifications of teachers. More so with sex education, many teachers feel uncomfortable teaching the subject and refuse to do so," he said. 

However, with regards to LGBTQI+ issues, Doodhai said that although TTUTA has no official position, the Association is against discrimination of any kind. 

Doodhai added that he has no aversion towards bringing in specialists qualified to teach sexual education.

"The Principal is free to bring that person into the school to facilitate (sex-ed) classes," he said. 

The programme helps students "demonstrate an understanding of the concept of human sexuality as an integral part of the total person which finds expression throughout the human life-cycle". 

The programme also helps students minimise vulnerability to problems such as HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer and STIs.

The programme also helps students analyse the influence of socio-cultural and economic factors as well as "belief on the expression of sexuality and sexual choices". 

A 2011 US study on abstinence-only education and teenaged pregnancy rates showed that "the more strongly abstinence is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rate".

2013 report by Time noted a decrease in the teenage pregnancy rate in the US from 2007-2013 was due in part to increased access to birth control and sexual education. 

LoopTT has reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment. 


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