“Comprehensive” sexuality education in Ghana

Sexuality education is not a new phenomenon in formal curricula. Sweden, a country credited as the fountain of modern sexuality education programmes, has provided this form of education for more than a century. Diverse forms of sexuality education have existed for several years in many African countries too, albeit informally.

Now prefixed with “comprehensive” , sexuality education is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values aimed at helping them in life.

The accepted path for doing this is by providing learners with information that is scientifically correct, appropriate to their age and development and sensitive to local cultures as well as legal provisions.

But how does this translate into the curriculum of schools? One or another element of sexuality education has been taught in Ghanaian schools since before independence in 1957. Taught under different nomenclature, sexuality education has, at all times, used an integrated approach at the pre-tertiary level.

We set out to study the relationship and the depth of coverage of topics in Ghana. Three regions – Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo and Northern – were sampled for the study. We looked at five themes: sexual and reproductive physiology; HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention; contraception and pregnancy prevention; gender and sexual and reproductive health; and values and interpersonal skills. We also looked at the grades when students first started learning sexuality.

Our key findings were that disproportionate attention was being given to sexual and reproductive physiology with limited coverage of the other themes. Overall, the findings showed that pupils who studied sexuality education topics between Primary 6 (around 11 years) and Junior High School 1-3 (around 12 to 14 or 15 years) had better chances of being introduced to a wider range of the content.

We concluded that expansive coverage of sexuality education concepts depended considerably on the early introduction of students to these issues. This is particularly helpful because it underscores findings elsewhere that norms and values formed early in life tend to be more enduring than those learned in older adolescence.

Our main recommendation was that knowledge, and perhaps behavioural outcomes on sexual and reproductive health, could be better enhanced with the early introduction of sexuality education topics. Read more.

By Joshua Amo-Adjei, University of Cape Coast | Source: The Conversation,

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