“In an environment where basic education about sexual and reproductive health is not provided at homes, young children are at a huge risk of taking up the wrong path and that is where we need to intervene,” Nasir Sohail, a teacher at St Lawrence High School says.
Sohail is one of the four teachers trained under the School4life campaign that aims to train teachers to create awareness among senior school children about sexual and reproductive health. The School4life campaign, globally known as Dance4life, was introduced in Pakistan in 2011 and has reached five schools in Lahore so far.
Explaining the programme, Sohail said it also aimed at making teachers and students aware of the threat of HIV-AIDs.
He said the programme took over five months. The teachers were first given an orientation session on how to teach and educate young children about sexual and reproductive health. Six lessons were delivered once a week to grades 8-10 students on children’s rights, future dreams and awareness about HIV and physical changes.
“Children shared their thoughts and feelings, which I felt was a huge progress,” he said.
Sohail said children had many question relating to subjects considered taboo. He said children needed someone to confide in and people they confided in should provide them with the right information.
Sohail said the parents had been very supportive and none of them had objected to the programme content.
The project in its pilot phase targeted the Beaconhouse School (Garden Town and Liberty Campuses), Sanjan Nagar Higher Secondary School, Workers Welfare Higher Secondary School and the St Lawrence High School.
Riffat Shahid, the Beaconhouse Garden Town Campus principal, said students had a lot of queries, especially about HIV-AIDs.
“It is important to talk to children about sexual and reproductive health. But we also need to monitor the information given to them,” she said.
Dr Irfan Ahmed, senior health advisor at Plan International Pakistan, believes that educational interventions like these are viewed as efficient ways to generate a greater awareness in society. Talking about education during adolescent years, he says, “This is the age which should be invested in.”
He says in their adolescent children seek information and should be guided to make informed decisions so that they do not make wrong decisions under peer pressure.
The school4life campaign, funded by Rutgers-WPF, is being implemented by the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi. Project Coordinator Tehseen Azar said the programme had so far been taken to english medium schools having computer labs.
“Sexual and reproductive heath is a sensitive topic. We want to make sure that in its initial phase we target schools where there is some degree of acceptance of the subject,” she said.
Next year the programme is expected to be expanded to public schools.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.
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