Sex Education removed from the Nigerian Educational Curriculum – Facts, possible consequences, and calls to action

On Tuesday, civil society organizations criticized the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, for directing the National School Research Development Council to remove sex education from the Nigerian educational curriculum.

The Executive Director of Education as a Vaccine, Mrs. Toyin Chukwudozie, issued a statement in Abuja opposing the direction on behalf of 53 organizations.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, at the 66th Ministerial Session of the National Council of Education, the minister announced the decision to remove sex education from the curriculum.

The minister argued that sex education should be left to parents and religious institutions and should not be taught in schools in a way that would further corrupt young children with access to cell phones and other technologies.

On the other hand, Chukwudozie said that anyone who had worked with the curriculum would know that it was meant to help and guide teens and young adults.

Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) Curriculum in Nigeria.

The National Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) Curriculum was approved by the 49th session of the National Council on Education in 2002 as the education sector’s key response to preventing and mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS among in-school youths in Nigeria.

The goals of the FLHE curriculum include:

  • Information: Provision of accurate information about human sexuality;
  • Attitudes, Values and Insights: Provision of opportunities for learners to question, explore and assess their sexual attitudes and develop their own values;
  • Skills: Equipping learners with interpersonal skills, including communication, decision-making, assertiveness and refusal skills;
  • Responsibility: Provision of opportunities to learn about exercising responsibility, resisting pressures to become prematurely involved in sexual activity, taking protective sexual health measures, preventing sexual abuse/ violence.

It is important to note the following:

  • The FLHE curriculum is a planned educational process that encourages the acquisition of factual knowledge, the creation of positive attitudes, beliefs, and values, and the development of skills.
  • It was designed to assist young adults and adolescents in navigating the biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual components of human existence.
  • The program sought to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to make reasonable decisions regarding their bodies.
  • The curriculum did not discriminate against any of the country’s religious or cultural groups or teachings.

Possible Consequences of the Removal

Teen pregnancy rates

When a child does not learn about reproductive health and contraception, they may be at greater risk for teen pregnancy.

Research has found countries with comprehensive sex-ed programs have lower teen pregnancy rates.

Impact on sexual behavior

One 2014 report on young adolescents and sexual health says early intervention is key in building healthy future relationships. When children are not properly educated on matters related to their sexual well-being, they are vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviours, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted.

A recent UNESCO study that looked at sex-ed courses from various countries across the world found that sexual education delayed initiation of sexual intercourse, decreased frequency of sexual intercourse, decreased number of sexual partners, reduced risk-taking, increased use of condoms and increased use of contraception.

The report also found that sex-ed courses did not lead to earlier sexual activity in young people.

Other research suggests that teaching kids the proper names for their genitals at a young age is important “given that children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse during the preschool years.”

Understanding gender and sexual diversity

Not learning about gender and sexual identity in the classroom can have a lasting impact on children.

When kids receive accurate and age-appropriate information about sexual and gender identity, they are more likely to practice acceptance and promote inclusivity. This is especially important for children who may identify as members of the LGBTQ community.

What needs to be done?

Every young person will eventually have to make life-altering choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

The majority of adolescents lack the knowledge necessary to make these decisions responsibly, leaving them exposed to coercion, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancy, according to studies.

Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information. Research has shown time and time again that abstinence-only education doesn’t work.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education needs to be incorporated into the Nigerian Educational Curriculum.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)

Comprehensive sexuality education is the curriculum-based teaching and learning of the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social components of sexuality. 

It seeks to equip children and adolescents with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that will enable them to realize their health, well-being, and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own and others’ well-being, and comprehend and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.

Why is CSE necessary?

During the transition from childhood to adulthood, too many adolescents get confused and contradictory information regarding relationships and sexuality. This has increased the desire among young people for accurate knowledge that prepares them for a safe, productive, and satisfying existence. CSE responds to this demand by empowering young people to make informed decisions about relationships and sexuality and to navigate a world where gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to pose grave threats to their health and well-being. 

Equally, a lack of age- and developmentally-appropriate, high-quality sexuality and relationship education may leave children and adolescents prone to dangerous sexual behaviors and sexual exploitation.

CSE is essential in addressing the health and well-being of children and adolescents. Using a learner-centered approach, CSE not only provides children and adolescents with age-appropriate and phased education on human rights, gender equality, relationships, reproduction, sexual behaviours risks, and the prevention of ill health, but also provides an opportunity to present sexuality in a positive light, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility, and reciprocity.

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