The sensitivity of sex education has earned it some anathema in the Nigerian school system and in the larger society. Even the family which should ordinarily serve as the ground of nascence for sex education has shirked its responsibilities either as a result of the misplaced belief that morality will cover up for sex education or as a result of sheer negligence, and this holds grave pernicious consequences for the home, the school and the society alike.
Sex education encompasses all forms of instruction, training, advice, warning, elucidation, and a host of many others, given to an individual with the aim of enabling him/her develop a healthy mindset toward sex and all sexual matters. By ‘sexual matters’, we refer not only to the basic gratifying act of copulation but knowledge of one’s own maturing body structure, body function, appearance, relation with and respect for the opposite gender, marriage, conception, emotional feelings and sensations, etc, and all these make sexual education a sinuous task which should not be left to circumstances but rather be undertaken fundamentally by parents, partly by religious organizations and comprehensively by schools.
Truth be told; it would rather be hypocritical to dispute the sexual orientation and moral laxity of the present-day Nigerian society and the world at large, where such social realities as introduction of sex-appealing images into broadcast and advertisements, uncensored sex scenes in movies, nudity in musical videos, indecent dressing in disguise as fashion and trends, lewd songs, rampageous demand for sexual intimacy, prostitution and brothel businesses, unchecked internet access, rape and other forms of sexual harassment have all become the order of the day. Yes, the list is endless! These realities therefore make sex education pertinent. Against this backdrop, the question should not be whether sex education should be taught or not but rather how sex education can be carried out at home, in school and in other concerned sectors.
As a matter of course, the home should form the epicentre of sex education. Children should be taught basic ways of self protection from sexual predators. They should be given basic do’s and don’ts such as how to sit in public places, choice of friends, their level of intimacy with the opposite sex, parts of their bodies that are out of bounds to others, choice of clothes as well as when to report suspicious intimate acts either from their mates or mischievous adults. On this ground, it is then important that parents create an enabling relationship with their children such that even naturally-taciturn children are prompted to divulge their feelings and encounters at every point in time.
In addition, parents should be observant of behavioural as well as physical changes in their teens. They should prepare their minds for puberty and instruct them properly on how to adapt to such bodily changes. Female children should be taught such issues as menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy and all related topics. The male children should also be taught on how to deal with nocturnal emissions, their limits with the opposite sex and the consequences and responsibilities that follow fathering a child. Both sexes should be made to understand the reality of STDs and the necessity for complete abstinence.
Religious organizations, in turn, have a role to play in the sex education of a child. Through series of teachings and seminars, teenagers could be made to understand the spiritual significance of keeping their bodies sacred and the necessity for chastity and sex dignity.
Health workers are not left out of sex education since they are best placed to enlighten the young adults, teens and children alike on sensitive parts of the body, the deadliness of STDs and other venereal diseases as well as how to prevent them.
If all other sectors fail in the sex education of a child, it is important that the school does not, else the outcome could be disastrous. The passive support which the education system has given the course of sex education is apparently inconsequential. This is manifested through the permission of mostly nongovernmental organizations or voluntary health workers to give sex talks during assemblies or at most, seminars which are often very few and in the real sense of it, unproductive and ineffective.
SEX EDUCATION SHOULD BE TAKEN AS SERIOUSLY AS FUNCTIONAL LITERACY!
As a matter of fact, half-baked sex education is worse than complete negligence hence the need to train teachers and counselors to cater for the emotional demands of students particularly during the growing years and the adolescent stage. Classroom teachers should themselves be persons of integrity who students can confide in on such matters.
In addition, counselling units particularly in secondary schools should be strengthened to organize regular seminars and comprehensive programmes to enlighten both students and parents on sex matters.
On a final note, to ignore sex education for fear of polluting the minds of children is to unconsciously expose them to emotional and bodily harm. To get advice, most youths resort to peers who themselves are ill-educated on the topic, and get misguided as a result. In most cases, these young minds are forced to knuckle under social and peer pressures and the consequences are: exposure to STDs, teenage pregnancies, illegal abortions, criminality, sexual maladjustments, addictions, prostitution, rape, deaths and many other ignominious acts which truncate the hopes and aspirations of many Nigerian youths. All hands, therefore, must be on deck to uphold sex education and by extension, sexual sanity in our society or we watch the nation’s strength pass out on the bed of sex! This is a clarion call to all and sundry! There is no shame in sex education!