A couple of months ago a national question was raised: Should condoms (and other contraceptives) be introduced in high schools?
This provoked alarm in many communities and right across the country people began to debate on whether this recommendation was the best solution to sexual health concerns.
The Great Condom Debate came up again at this week’s United States Public Affairs Section presentation by DefZee (Definitely Zimbabwean), an online youth magazine that engages in discussion forums to find lasting solutions to contemporary issues affecting the youth.
Young people and youth stakeholders came from all walks of life to continue this condom debate, sharing concerns and opinions on how to move forward.
As I sat through this debate, I began to remember my final years of primary school and how the issue of sexual reproductive health was approached.
During one particular class, my male teacher, opened the chapter we had to study, instructed the class monitor to take us through, and walked out, most likely with the embarrassment of trying to teach a group of adolescents about their bodies, puberty and reproductive health.
Consequently the class flipped through the pages, chuckled at the diagrams and explanations provided and probably left the class in the same position – ill-informed.
I presume society has changed and hopefully this is not the case right now. Judging by the feedback at the debate, it seems most of society has become more open to discussing such matters.
What struck me most though is that there are more questions out there than there are adequate responses, so this week I join the debate by putting forward some of my own thoughts comments and questions, as well as those I have heard, surrounding the subject.
Certainly I agree with the argument that this would reduce unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV and help young people make informed decisions and practice safe sex.
The word in town is that “sex has become fashionable in high schools” – once again highlighting that we cannot turn a blind eye and assume young people are not engaging in sexual activities.
It might be detrimental to just open the textbooks and leave young people to figure it out on their own.
Young people need to be taught about sexual reproductive health in a way that opens a platform for them to freely ask questions.
We might be surprised and see that once young people understand the consequences involved and are wellinformed, they may actually opt to abstain or practice safe measures.
What young people need to be taught therefore goes beyond the schools and should become the responsibility of parents and caregivers as well.
The biggest fear most expressed was the possibility of sexual activity increasing if young people are given such open access to contraceptives, in the belief that they will be “safe”.
Above all fundamentally is the religious and moral factor surrounding the matter. Sex outside of marriage is not encouraged in the Church (Christianity), so this is where churches, youth leaders and pastors speak out against provision of condoms.
Such a concept can also be seen to negate our African morals and brings up questions of the future of our society and the possibility of moral decay.
This is the time to provide as one person said a “consistent message to the youth”. Is it abstinence, contraceptives, go-ahead or silence?
Finally, to ease the tension some parents may be feeling right now, this condom introduction has not been endorsed at all, and if it had to be endorsed, will not happen overnight.