The attention of the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), a semi-autonomous government agency, in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning is drawn to the ongoing debate in the media on provision of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Whether to offer sexuality education in schools is a concern addressed in the Sessional Paper No.3 of 2012 on Population Policy for National Development and also the reproductive health policy guidelines. The recently launched Education Sector Policy on HIV and AIDS 2013 is another Government policy that gives impetus to the provision of education content that empowers young people in schools as they face the realities of life. Furthermore, the government through the Ministry of Education has developed guidelines for age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education.
NCPD is guided by the population policy to advise the Country on how to improve quality of life for the population in order to attain Vision 2030 and sustainable development goals. It is important to clarify that the population policy addresses issues around sexuality because they influence fertility; one the concerns of the policy. The other two are migration and life expectancy.
Providing comprehensive sexuality education aims to reduce the vulnerability of young people by enabling children and young people to access age-appropriate sexuality information. According to the Education Sector Policy on HIV and AIDS 2013, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology proposes to “review the Life Skills Education curriculum and other subjects to enhance provision of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education and reinforce the capacity to implement, monitor and evaluate related programmes which are expected to guide programmes to address HIV/AIDS needs for people in the educational sector”. These efforts aim to delay sexual debut and reduce the risks of infections, re-infections and early or unplanned pregnancies.
While these guidelines are clear that information provided should be age-appropriate offered by suitably trained facilitators, recent media reports suggest that there may be still some concerns. Although issues of population and reproductive health, including family planning may be complex, they touch on critical issues that determine the socio-economic and political development of the Country. Any discussions of these issues must therefore be guided by evidence backed with data gathered from reliable sources such as scientific research and impact assessments of various policies and programmes implemented by established service providers and key players in the field.
Kenya, like other countries conducts various surveys, such as the Demographic Health (KDHS) survey and the Census to monitor key indicators that are used to inform government and other players about health and demographic concerns that need immediate attention. According to recently launched 2014 KDHS conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, girls of school going age had already began child bearing. It should also be noted that today children live under the shadow of HIV/AIDS and other emerging non-communicable diseases that never used to affect them. In Kenya 1 in every 5 girls between 15-19 years have begun child bearing; while 46 percent of new HIV infections occur among young people between the age of 15-24 and 23 percent of young women aged 20-24 years are married by age 18, while 41 percent are married by 20 years. This undesired outcome is due to early onset of sexual activity, early marriages and low contraceptive use among young women.
Analyses conducted by NCPD, in collaboration with other stakeholders show that where young people access life skills including comprehensive family life education, they delay sex and marriage leading to healthier child bearing and lower maternal mortality. While this outcome is acceptable to all, the process by which this can be achieved is quite often contested. This shows the need to address early commencement of sexual activity as a development issue and seek the support of everyone including religious and cultural groups to stem irresponsible sexual behaviour and child marriages that happen despite existence of laws prohibiting the practice.