On Tuesday 4th June 2019, I was privileged to be part of a consultative workshop at the African Reagent Hotel, convened to validate the Ghana State of Youth Development Report. As part of the activities to achieve the goal of the programme, participants were given the opportunity to suggest aspects of youth development in Ghana that may not have been captured adequately in the report for consideration. We were grouped in our areas of specialisation to note such omitted areas and present same to the plenary. By virtue of my interest and specialisation in health as a sociologist, I joined the health domain group. Our discussion was coordinated by Joshua Atabinore Akharigeya, a gentleman from PPAG. Fortunately for him, he was the one to present our suggestions. He took the opportunity to make a strong appeal for condom demonstration in Ghanaian schools. His argument was that, the children were having sex anyway and getting into undesirable consequences; condom demonstration would show them how to have safe sex.
I did not give this a lot of thought until Sunday 21st July 2019. I attended church service as usual at Atwima Brofoyedu near Kumasi. This particular day, Douglas Ocran, our national children’s pastor visited us. He decided to take a moment to passionately encourage parents to ‘fortify’ their children against prevailing pressures by investing in their spiritual development. At a point one of the reasons he gave for this fortification was the changing paradigm in the educational syllabus and the emergence of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in Ghanaian schools. He said, “Before you realise, your children will be taught how to use condoms in school.” His point was that such content in the educational curriculum would be detrimental to children. Just as he voiced this concern my mind went back to the consultative workshop. Indeed, there is a high level advocacy for an increased depth in Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in Ghanaian schools.
Obviously, the church and PPAG have different goals. Whilst the church offers hope that adolescents can abstain from sex outside marriage through the power of the gospel, organisations like PPAG try to offer hope of preventing some undesirable consequences of unprotected sex. But between the arguments for and against condom demonstration in schools stand the realities of sex, pregnancy, abortion and STIs among adolescents. I prefer not to go into any statistics. But let me point out some media reports on pregnant 2019 BECE candidates.
Nine (9) teenage mothers and eight (8) pregnant teenagers sat for the examination in the Asante Akim North District. The District Director of Education is quoted to have said that “There could be more pregnancies.” (Myjoyonline.com, 11th June 2019).
Twelve (12) pregnant girls wrote the examination in the Bolgatanga Municipality (Ghana News Agency, 11th June 2019).
Seven (7) pregnant girls wrote the exam in the Awutu Senya West District (Adomonline, 11th June 2019).
About ten (10) candidates in the Savelugu municipality were unable to sit for the exams due to pregnancy (Peacefmonline, 11th June 2019).
Eleven (11) pregnant girls were among candidates the Tano North Municipality (Ghana News Agency, 13th June, 2019).
Three (3) pregnant girls and one (1) lactating mother in the Berekum West District; Four (4) pregnant girls in the Tarkwa-Nsueam Municipality; Three (3) pregnant candidates in the Agona East District; One candidate in Sissala East gave birth to a bouncy baby girl right after writing the first paper on Monday (The Chronicle, 14th June 2019).
Remember these figures are a sample of media reports on pregnant girls for only the 2019 BECE. I have not even added anything about the boys who may have impregnated them. In fact other issues like abortions and STI’s have not been mentioned. So how do we deal with this? The Church’s way or the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) way?
Sexual urge, natural human instinct is fresh and strong in adolescents. It is also natural that sex will lead to pregnancy when had at the right time and in the right way. Apart from natural and traditional ways of preventing pregnancy, technology has given us various avenues to prevent pregnancy. Some of which are the use of condoms, pills, vasectomy, tubal litigation, diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, spermicides, patches, injections, vaginal rings, implants, etc. The question is, should we give adolescents knowledge of all these? Should we encourage them to use any of these methods at their age?
Sociologically, society answers these questions. We as a society determine what approved behaviour is and what is not. In that case there must be a national conversation about the matter. CSE is already in our educational curriculum. It is just that some aspects like condom demonstration are not allowed. While I wish this does not go any further than it has reached, I see that the trajectory of our society’s development is leading to a more detailed CSE in our country.