The positive gains surrounding Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) have been presented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The UNFPA’s Liaison Officer for Barbados and the OECS, Denise Blackstock, pointed out that CSE is very important in leading children and young people to make decisions that will impact their lives in a positive manner: “Research has been carried out in this area, at national and international levels, which have actually demonstrated the benefit of teaching CSE. Some of these benefits include delayed sexual initiation, reducing early or teen pregnancy, reducing sexual risk-taking; there has been an increase in the use of contraception and improved overall attitudes related to sexual and reproductive health.”
The topics being covered in the International technical guidance on sexuality education are:
- Values, Rights, Culture and Sexuality
- Understanding Gender
- Violence and Staying Safe
- Skills for Health and Well-being
- The Human Body and Development
- Sexuality and Sexual Behaviour
- Sexual and Reproductive Health
Grenada and several other Caribbean and Latin American states declared their commitment to CSE in 2008, through the Mexico City Ministerial Declaration “Educating to Prevent”.
We, the Ministers of Health and Education of Latin America and the Caribbean… Affirm our commitment to the right to the highest possible level of health, education, non-discrimination and well-being of current and future generations.
– Preamble, Mexico City Ministerial Declaration “Educating To Prevent”
Teaching students about the different aspects of sexuality, which include gender orientation, tolerance for homosexuality, and the changing structure of the family unit, are already proving to be a matter of concern among the first cohort of 16 Health and Family Life Education teachers (HFLE) chosen to implement the newly revised international guide on CSE in Grenada’s schools.
Following a 2-day workshop organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), teachers were not certain how they would present some of the material appearing in the 138-page document titled International technical guidance on sexuality education.
A veteran teacher at a Roman Catholic school said she has no problem teaching general topics such as health, fitness, and interpersonal skills. Still, the new concepts about the modern family will be challenging. She said, “we’re accustomed to telling them about the nuclear family, and families are mommies and daddies and siblings, but now, what we have to tell them, it should be like families could be mommy and mommy, and daddy and daddy. Two women, two men? Based on our belief, our upbringing, going now to tell those young children that, although they know it is going on, it’s happening, but having to teach it in schools now, it is a challenge, it would be a challenge.”
How do you think the parents are going to receive this?
“Some parents don’t care, but the few who care would be hesitant. The challenge will be, why are you doing that? And I think they have a right to because certain topics I feel [should] be left to the parents to handle with their children.”
She is also concerned about whether the school would be allowed to teach such things since it is a Catholic school.
Another teacher with 8 years of experience said the new CSE document has many “touchy” topics that will be “tricky” to teach. “How do I go and tell the children, you could be a man with a female organ, or you could be a lesbian or gay? It’s not something I grew up with as a Catholic, and it’s hard to go and teach that. It’s going against my religion.”
Do you think something else should be created for our society?
I have two takes on this. In Grenada, we don’t accept non-traditional gender roles. We don’t accept lesbians and gays. There are no laws for that here. So, part of me is saying just focus on what your country is based on, and another part is like the children are not going to stay here. They’re not just going to sit and just be looking at the news that’s happening in Grenada. They’re all over social media, and it’s happening all over the world. So they should have knowledge of those aspects, but it’s how much knowledge that concerns me.
One guidance counsellor said he would allow his training to guide his teaching. He is a former HFLE primary school teacher and said, “I understand what my thinking is from a religious standpoint, but at the same time, because of my training and my experience in counselling. For example, someone who is of a gay orientation or lesbian orientation may come to me for counselling; I have to deal with that person separate and apart from my religious belief. So, let’s suppose we are talking about the Comprehensive Sexuality Education, one of the things that I’ll have to do is present the information, encourage dialogue and discussion, so that the students can understand without necessarily saying I believe this or I believe that.”