January 27, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Why is there no sex education in our government schools?

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Colin WilsonwebCurrently, no school in the Cayman Islands delivers a consistent, age appropriate comprehensive sexual education curriculum, which is aimed at empowering youth with knowledge, skills and information equipping them to make responsible choices throughout their lives.

Those are not my words. They are from 17 year old Madeleine Rowell who has organised a petition for persons to sign and send it to two government ministers, Osbourne Bodden Minister of Health and Tara Rivers Minister of Education.

The petition asks the ministers to:

1-        adopt a national sexual education curriculum which is based on proven best practices of comprehensive, age appropriate information for students of all ages, but specifically for those in middle and high school, and

2-        to improve youth access to this information, testing, and contraception aimed at reducing the risk of contracting STIs and/or unwanted pregnancy by improving access to the aforementioned at the schools, health centres, and via willing community partners working with youth.

See our front page story in iNews Cayman today: “Petition to adopt a national sexual education curriculum in schools”.

Ms Rowell also says:

“Over the past ten years the Cayman Islands Red Cross has been working to offer such information to youth via it’s comprehensive Peer Education Programme, yet even this – which started off as a part of the Year 11 life skills curriculum at the public high school – has been reduced to a couple of activities throughout the school year.

“Outside of the classroom access to this information, skills, testing, and contraception aimed at reducing the risks of contracting a STI or becoming pregnant is also extremely limited, and that which is available is most likely restricted to those students in the public high schools.”

I am shocked. The Cayman Red Cross produces a programme for schools and it has been reduced to “a couple of activities throughout the school year”.

Why? Who on earth made this decision when the figures for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are rising?

Without the mental and social problems attached to all this perhaps government can consider the actual cost this country has to bear to deal with it.

From voxxi website:

In the USA, among developed countries, it ranks highest in numbers of teen pregnancy and STD cases. Just how high are those numbers? According to information from Compliance and Safety, three teenage girls in the country become pregnant every two minutes, and more than 80 percent of those pregnancies are unplanned.

Out of every 1,000 teenage girls in the United States, a poll conducted between 2002-2005 indicated more than 70 would become pregnant, compared to approximately 40 girls in the United Kingdom, 30 girls in France, 25 girls in Germany, and 15 girls in Holland. And of that number anticipated to become pregnant, only 50 percent were expected to graduate from high school.

When it comes to sexual education, however, pregnancy is not the only area teenagers need information. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major concern among teens in the United States, and one out of four sexually active teens will contract an STD within the next 12 months. That number equates to approximately half of all STD cases reported for the entire U.S. population—including those reported by adults.

Furthermore, abstinence-only education appears to be failing. States with abstinence-only policies have the highest rates of teen pregnancy compared to states which actively teach sexual education. A drop in teen pregnancy between 1990 and 2005 was attributed to increased contraceptive use rather than an increase in teenagers abstaining from sex.

Statistics indicate teenagers receiving sexual education are 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than teenagers who are only instructed on abstinence, but despite the numbers, abstinence is still the main topic discussed in the majority of schools across the country.

The information indicates a need for better sexual health program around the nation, and parents agree the topic is important. According to the infographic, 91 percent of high school student parents believe sexual education is important, and 93 percent feel birth control is a topic which should be addressed.

For more go to: http://www.voxxi.com/teen-pregnancy-std-sexual-education/

So how do these figures compare with the Cayman Islands?

We don’t have the exact figures. In a report on the government website that is mainly devoted to defilement (girls under the age of 12, 12-16) it states “Statistics show that from 2003 until the end of 2006 there have been 25 reported cases of teenage pregnancies reported to authorities in the Cayman Islands. However, it is felt that there are cases that are not being reported. The Inspector commented that the Cayman Islands is a conservative country and typically the discussion of sex involving our youths is a topic that people do not want to discuss, but times are changing, and if we do not educate our young people on the consequences of their actions, young people are placed in vulnerable positions.”

Times don’t seem to be changing. In March this year when the Rooster Crosstalk show was subjecting potential MLA candidates to listeners’ questions one such question relating to teaching birth control was not asked. The person who submitted the question had to resort to a website media house and posted it there with a Note:

“Teen pregnancy in our society

“Ref: Conversation between Cayman Cross talk and Independent Women Candidates. Birth control should be taught yes. But the ultimate goal is to teach our young people to RESTRAIN and wait until marriage. Also RCIP needs to keep an eye on these old hard back men hounding the school grounds looking for young girls to pluck they must be arrested by the police, charged, and sentenced long enough to learn a lesson. Women will bring about the change we need. in 2013 VOTE FOR ALL THE WOMEN CANDIDATES Or continue to suffer at the hands of these know it all money hungry XXXX!

“Note: this was sent to Cayman Cross talk to read on the show this morning but was overlooked. Apparently not important enough for them to share with the public, what a pity.”

Recently CITN/Cayman27 have produced a number of programmes on teenage pregnancy issues and they are to be commended. However, it is government who needs to address the problem NOW.

I urge all of our readers to sign Ms Rowell’s petition. If CITN is to be commended Ms Rowell should be applauded.

I, too, have asked the question, “why is there no sex education in our government schools?”

How long will I wait for the answer?

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