Uganda: Too Young to Know, Yet Too Young to Die
July 15, 2010
In Uganda, ministry of education guidelines require that the HIV/AIDS curriculum presented in primary school be appropriate to students ages six through 12. Yet since the introduction of free primary school in 1997, many older students have started school late: Even 17-year-olds are common in primary school. Advocates worry, therefore, that these older students are not receiving age-appropriate sex education lessons.
"The ministry assumes that all kids in primary school are still young and not sexually active," said Henry Ntale, a counselor and advocacy manager at the Naguru Teenage Information and Health Center. "It is our concern that when we use the age-appropriate information, those mature boys and girls in primary school need that information."
The center serves clients ages 10-24, and about 40 adolescents every day ask for HIV screening. Of these, 60 percent are in school. Uganda's 25 percent teen pregnancy rate is one of Africa's highest, leading many teenage girls in primary school to drop out. In some school systems, the dropout rate for girls is as high as 50 percent, according to a 2006 Guttmacher Institute report.
The sex education guidelines for primary school cannot be based on the demands of a minority of older students, said Aggrey Kibenge, a spokesperson for the ministry of education and sports. "Are you going to design policies on the basis of the exception?" he asked.
"We recommend age-appropriate information regardless of the education level of the child," said Ntale. "We rather give them the information and skills to stay safe. Young people are too young to know, but again, they are too young to die. You rather let them know than let them die."
Inter Press Service
06.29.2010; Evelyn Matsamura Kiapi
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