The Birds and the bees: Matters of the body

  • It is high time to engage in conversations about sex. How else are adolescents to learn about it?
- Medha Malla

Feb 7, 2018-

Do you recall all the girls hiding their faces and all the boys causing ruckus and chaos, with the teacher himself being too embarrassed to speak freely about one particular subject in the health class? Almost every health class that revolved around sex education was awkward for both the students and the teachers.

Sex education has gotten most of us embarrassed during our school lives. Sex is a topic less discussed in our society. Yet, sex education is introduced into the curriculum quite early in the schools—sixth grade to be precise.

Sex Education is covered under the paper Health, Population and Environment, and comes with a syllabus endorsed by the Government itself. This syllabus covers basic facts and figures about safe motherhood, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive rights, and psychology. The objective, I assume, is to educate the adolescents about subjects that they can’t discuss freely in the society.

However, the question remains; even when it is in the curriculum, is the subject ever fully taught to the students? The branding of ‘sex’ as taboo in both rural and urban places has hindered the adolescents from learning about it to the fullest details.

During my ‘sex education days’, I was in grade seven. And I vividly remember looking at the holes on my desk, like all the other girls in our class, for we felt excruciatingly uncomfortable to discuss or even hear anything at all about sex—a topic, which was banned to be discussed in our homes. Thanks to the girls who couldn’t meet his eyes, and the boys that were busy making a ruckus, the teacher was left feeling absolutely awkward discussing the topic too. So, he just decided to let us read the chapter ourselves, quickly switching to the next chapter.

It was only in the following year that we had another teacher who walked in with enough courage to explain, elaborate, and teach us everything.

Our school even took us to Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) that year where we were taught about family planning and safe motherhood thoroughly by a nurse and a health worker.

Though our school took us to FPAN, many other schools don’t do so. Most of the students don’t get to learn about sex as clearly as they would have wanted to. The teachers themselves don’t feel comfortable to share about something that the society classifies as a ‘private matter’.

When asked about his experience as a teacher at Balmandir Secondary School, Kalyan Baral says, “It is very hard to control the class when it comes to teaching ‘these’ chapters. I personally think kids these days already know more than what we are supposed to teach them.” He states that the environment is not healthy and interactive, with the girls showing minimal participation. The government school teacher, who has been teaching this topic for many years, feels the need for more appropriate teaching tools in schools. He feels the need for a health worker or at least audiovisual aids to help him teach the subject without the class lapsing into chaos.

A student at the same school, Sagun Parajuli, says “It felt funny. Of course it was awkward. The teachers and students still have a huge communication gap between them. It is not usually easy for us to ask about the things we want to know due to the boundaries.” Another student, Sangya Koirala from the renowned Gandaki Boarding School, says the same. “It is awkward, and then there’s also the lack of practical knowledge, which makes it more difficult for us to understand the theory. The teachers themselves hold back when it comes to communicating freely and effectively.”

It is no surprise that there is still a huge gap to bridge between the students and teachers for a better environment for sex education in the class. But these difficulties have not been addressed by the schools. Neither has the government taken any step to mitigate this failure of the education system.

Sex education, however, should go beyond just schools. It should be accessible to even adolescents who do not go to school. 

The recent data from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that 49 percent of women aged 20-49 were married before age 18. The knowledge they have regarding sex is not enough for them to carry out a safe and healthy sex life. 99 percent of adolescents have heard about STIs but only 15 percent know the signs and symptoms correctly.

Hence, is it not high time that we talk to and educate adolescents about sex?

Malla is an A-levels student at Rato Bangla School

Published: 07-02-2018 09:45

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