This study aims to find out if sex education is the solution to the increasing rates of teenage pregnancies on the African continent. The study seeks to answer the research question, “How does sex education affect teenage pregnancy in Africa?” The goal is to analyze the current sex education approaches and determine whether or not they have an impact on the social issue.
Sex Education: Instruction of issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control, and sexual abstinence.
Teenage pregnancy: female adolescents becoming pregnant between the ages of 13-19. Wikipedia (2019)
Sex is a game, and like any other game, it comes with instructions. The twenty-first century is not a time for the continent to turn a blind eye and pretend that its children are not sexually active. Since the beginning of time, African parents have tried to hide as much evil and darkness as they can from their children and to protect them from the cruel world.
Just like everything else in this world, things have changed, and there is a need for teenagers to get exposed to the realities of the world around them. With the evolution of social media and other technologies, African teenagers are unable to escape the facts of the world, which their parents tried so hard to keep hidden from them, and that includes sex. It is understandable that parents fear what their children might become once they engage with the real world, but things are not the same anymore.
Teenagers deserve to know about sex and must be prepared to face its realities once it catches up with them. It is through sex education that knowledge about it can spread. As claimed by The Kaiser Family Foundation (2019), there are two main approaches to sex education: abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education.
Abstinence-only, also known as “sexual risk avoidance,” teaches that abstinence is the expected standard of behavior for teenagers, and it excludes information about the effectiveness of contraceptives or condoms to prevent unintended pregnancies. This approach can, in certain circumstances, be manipulated to Abstinence-Plus-Education, stressing not only abstinence but information on contraceptives and condoms. On the other hand, Comprehensive Sex Education provides medically accurate age-appropriate information about abstinence, as well as safer sex practices, including contraception and condoms as effective ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The approach also addresses healthy relationships, communication skills, and human development, among other topics. Findings show that there are close to zero chances of sex education being added in school curriculums in most parts of the African continent, hence the existence of programs. The days are gone of parents being in denial of their children’s sexual activities and at risk of unintended pregnancies and STIs and trying to hide them from the faces of reality. Sex is a reality and a bullet that teenagers have no chance of dodging.
There have been several instances where pregnant teenagers have taken their own lives or ran away from home because they feared to tell their parents about their situations to avoid disappointing them. In most instances, teenagers fall pregnant, and their parents have no idea how it happened because they believe that they kept their children away from sexual talks. As a result of the above-stated instances and others unmentioned, many researchers noted this social issue. They conducted countless studies analyzing the introduction of sex education as a means to encourage lower teenage pregnancy rates in Africa. Sexual reproductive health and rights education approaches and the effects that it has on adolescent pregnancies were left out of these studies. This study is going to look deep into the quality of the available sex education and the effects it has on teenage pregnancies and how it can be redefined and used as a weapon to fight the high rates of adolescent pregnancies.
Sex education is a topic that has become a widespread social phenomenon in today’s society. It is believed to be the solution to the high rates of teenage pregnancies on the African continent and has shown to be an unimpeachable solution. Thobejane (2015) performed a study on 20 young parents (both male and female) in South Africa, Matjitjileng village, that found 30% teenage mothers claiming that sex education lessons contributed to their pregnancy, while 70% percent said it did not have any bearing on theirs. These findings show that only three of seven teenage pregnancies are influenced by sex education, which identifies a gap in the educational approaches used. This statistic is exciting and almost accurate because the percentage of people who are in support of sex education is nearly equal to the ones found in studies done in other countries. Of a thousand respondents, Orji and Esimai (2003) found that the majority of the parents (92%), teachers (90%), and students (78%) supported the introduction of sex education into the school curriculum. They believed that it would prevent unwanted pregnancies, enhance healthy relationships, provide the knowledge of sexual interactions, consequences, and responsibilities.
The other one hundred and fifty-four (15.4%) of the respondents opposed the introduction of sex education because they believed that it would corrupt the students by leading to experimentation and that instead, it should be the responsibility of the parents at home. This finding clashes with what Mturi and Bechuke (2019) found among fifty respondents (four school principals, seven teachers, and thirty-nine learners) of Mafikeng in South Africa, which concluded that teenage pregnancy among school girls is very high, despite the introduction of sexual education in schools. This research finds that adolescent pregnancy continues to be a problem even with sex education provided for African teenagers. Odekunmi (2003) also noted that sex education available is not good enough to address the issues of teenage pregnancies in Nigeria, which raises the question as to why it is failing to work. Is it possible that the current existing sex education needs redefining, or is it just that teenagers are ignorant of the topic? This continues to raise questions about the education approaches used, and the roles that schools and parents play in supporting sex education for teenagers in the continent.
It is essential to try and understand the different approaches used to teach sex education when analyzing the topic. There is a need for discussions on how each of the approaches to sex education affects teenage pregnancies in today’s society, either negatively or positively. The Kaiser Family Foundation (2019) found that when it comes to sex education approaches, abstinence-only education had no effects on the sexual behavior of the youth and that teenagers under this approach were equally likely to abstain from sex than those that were not a part of these programs. Comprehensive sex education, on the other side, was found useful in delaying sexual initiation among teenagers and increasing the use of contraceptives, including condoms.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (2019) also found that, out of twenty-five American states, three in four high schools and half of the middle schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, while two of three high schools taught about the efficacy of contraceptives, and just about one of three taught students how to use a condom correctly. The finding is fascinating because, despite clear evidence suggesting that abstinence-only education is ineffective at delaying sexual activity and further preventing teenage pregnancies, many states continue to seek funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and mandate an emphasis on abstinence when sex education is taught in schools. The above act is an addition to the fear that is related to sex education being unable to perpetuate this social problem.
The beginning of this literature review touched on how sex has been a topic ignored by many African parents trying to avoid telling their children about it and how teenagers lack sex education, and now this part will look into the effects that the different approaches of sex education have on teenage pregnancies. While the strategies used are different, the lasting effects that sex education has on teenage pregnancies are coexistent. The Kaiser Family Foundation (2019) concluded that one of the impacts of abstinence-only training is higher rates of adolescent pregnancy and births, while the youth who received information about contraceptives from comprehensive sex education was at a 50% lower risk of teen pregnancy than those in abstinence-only programs. Teaching teenagers to abstain from sexual activities without explaining the consequences and how they can prevent them is not helping lower the rates of teenage pregnancies in African countries. Teens will still go out and engage in sexual intercourse, even with the abstinence-only lessons at hand. While many people think of comprehensive sex education to be a reliable and practical approach, this study brought up its weaknesses and failures in fighting teenage pregnancies. It is without a doubt that there is a lack of quality education in the available approaches, which, I believe, requires immediate attention and prioritization all around Africa. Similar findings from Mturi and Bechuke (2019) states that in most cases, sex education fails because there are no qualified teachers and that the content of the curriculum is very shallow. These findings indicate that there is a considerable gap in current sex education approaches.
My research is a compilation of articles by African authors, which I believe makes my study even more accurate and relatable. My review did not only look into current situations and journals but went further into articles from twenty years back, which helped me to track the progressing of sex education as a means of eliminating teenage pregnancies in Africa. In doing this research, and in comparing the findings of different writers, I found that there has been little effort put into filling in the gaps and redefining sex education approaches. Because of the continuous increase in rates of teenage pregnancies, there have been people who have developed different ideas to help raise awareness on the issue as well as offer different opinions on sex education approaches.
The Onlymyhealth (2019) believes that sex education can be used to transforms children into responsible adults. It is a known fact that teenagers today turn sexually active; therefore, sex education can help them understand the benefit of abstinence in the early years, or it can at least teach them how to be responsible sexually active people. A well redefined comprehensive sex education approach that will teach teenagers all the aspects of sex and its consequences and impacts will be an effective way of solving teenage pregnancies in African countries. The above can be implemented through sharing real-life experiences, having educational sex sessions, and other forms of sharing and spreading about the topic that is commonly shared and talked about between peers and peer educators. While students may run the risk of teenage pregnancies with all the knowledge provided, they also get to know what they are engaging with. This conclusion is one that is very accurate and relevant to the way adolescence think in today’s society.