Empowering adolescents to make healthy choices

21 July 2017
Gaoseb Joors proudly stands with his students. (Photo: UNFPA Namibia/Emma Mbekele)

“As adults, we always assume that our problems are bigger than those of children.

“Only until we have sat down with them and talked, we come to learn the magnitude of their problems,” said !Gaoseb Joors, a Life Skills teacher at Auas Primary School in Katutura, an informal settlement in Namibia's capital city, Windhoek.

“That’s when you start to realise that some have no means of getting a meal for a day, some are abused, some are raped, while some are abusing drugs,” said !Gaoseb.

!Gaoseb is one of the 29 teachers who received training in Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) conducted by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (MEAC) together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 13-15 March 2017.

Gaoseb said although sexuality education might be awkward, it is very important as it prepares young people to make healthy choices.

“Learners are exposed to sex even at the tender age of nine either through rape or play. There is also exposure through media, through television and through their peers.”

Since 2015, UNFPA and UNESCO have been supporting the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to roll out the CSE online trainings for teachers in eight regions of the country, namely, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Oshikoto, Kavango East and West, Zambezi and Khomas.

This brings the total number of teachers that have undertaken the online course to 402 since the launch of the CSE online module in 2015.

Comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to protect their health and wellbeing, including delaying the age of sexual debut, reducing the frequency of sex and number of sexual partners and increasing use of contraception, especially condoms.

It is estimated that by the end of 2017 the 402 teachers would have reached 84,420 learners with CSE messages annually.

“If I can make a different in one child’s life it will make me very happy,” said !Gaoseb,

“Thanks to the training, I now have the resources I need to succeed”, he added.

Namibia is predominantly youthful population with 66 per cent of the population below the age of 30. Young people below the age of 25 constitute 58 per cent and adolescents (10-24 years) constitute 33 per cent of the total population.

This population, bear the brunt of many social challenges such as poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes. The country is among the top ten countries globally with high HIV prevalence and teenage pregnancy.

Tsuses Constancia, who also received comprehensive sexuality education training, shared Gaoseb’s sentiments.

“My work as a teacher is to help learners develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life challenges, such as peer pressure, bullying and discrimination.

“I found the training very helpful. I feel much more prepared to enter a classroom and teach. I want to thank UNFPA and UNESCO for organising the training,” said Tsuses.

In addition to training teachers and building their capacity to deliver CSE in schools, UNFPA with other partners also supported the Namibian Government with the revision of the Life Skills curricula to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education content, and adaptation of the CSE curriculum for out-of-school youth.

To date, 127 out-of-school youth, many who are community volunteers, have received CSE training.

By Emma Mbekele