Education is arguably the core and foundation of civilization better known as the society we live in that aids in developing an individual. It is one of the essential ingredients which cannot be done without in the endeavor and pursuit of societal advancement.
It is a known fact that educated people make more money. On the contrary, street smart entities may earn more but people admire a person with sound education and hold them in higher reverence as compared to those who don’t – (unless you’re the CEO of the world’s biggest company that is!) Having an education allows you to work in a field that you immensely enjoy. You can participate in and have more stimulating conversations. The list is endless.
Hitting the spotlight on our nation’s education system only makes you wince in discomfort and utter humiliation. Our literacy rate is said to be 56 per cent. In fact, this figure is not entirely reliable per se and also includes those who can only write their names. In spite of the rows of educational plans, policies, conferences and five-year plans, our literacy rate does not appear to budge much apart from a miniscule percentage.
Pakistan mortifyingly boasts of one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world and the second largest out-of-school population of children after Nigeria. According to the 2011 consensus, Pakistan ranks 113th amongst the 120 countries of the world as far as the literacy rate is concerned.
One can’t help but marvel over the fact that indeed since our country ranks amongst the bottom 30 of the 192 member countries of the United Nations with regard to the rate of literacy, it is little wonder that discussion on sexuality is often misperceived as being synonymous to pornography and its comprehension and discernment is mostly limited to the act of sex only.
Procreation and Copulation – Inevitable Natural Processes:
What is human life? A living organism? A walking, talking miraculous creation by the divine hand of God? I’d have to mark a check alongside each hypothetical question presented above.
Essence transforming into existence, an act without which mankind would not exist and humanity would cease to exist. With the unyielding and rapid advancement of science and technology, human life can not only be taken as an act of biology. God like, human life maybe created by extracting – implanting – insemination.
Above all, you can’t simply deny the process of growing up or the most basic of questions, “Where do babies come from?!!” Then again, we as humans are sexual beings; it’s in our nature.
Wikipedia elucidates it as thus: “Sex education is instruction on issues relating to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, and birth control. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, formal school programs, and public health campaigns.”
It became distinctly clear to me that “sex education” is quite a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behavior.
Although some form of sex education is part of the curriculum at many schools globally, it remains a controversial issue in several countries, particularly with regard to the age at which children should start receiving such education, the amount of detail which is revealed, and topics dealing with human sexuality and behavior. Many strongly feel that it should be referred to as “Reproductive Health Education”.
Chief among controversial points is whether covering human sexuality is valuable or detrimental.
Many religions, or should I say practically every religion known to mankind preach sexual behavior outside of marriage is immoral and/or psychologically damaging, and many adherents desire this morality to be taught as a part of sex education.
Embarking on Puberty amidst Panic:
What does an 11 year old go through when one fine day, she starts bleeding in school, and she was never forewarned by her mother about menstruation? In a highly guarded and conservative setup, what does a 16 year old girl go through on the night she gets married, if she was not told even the basics?
A recent study on the ‘Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’ conducted by an international organisation, World Population Foundation, Pakistan recently manifests that puberty begins in panic for most of the young people, since they almost never have any preceding information about the biological evolution of their own bodies. More often than not, young people are lured into obtaining information about sex and sexuality from a wide range of sources including each other, through the media including advertising, television and magazines, as well as leaflets, books and websites. The research suggests that while some of this information might be accurate, the major chunk of it is misleading – placing the youth at greater risk of abuse, exploitation and acquiring Sexually Transmitted Infections.
The blatant disregard towards the magnitude, value and need of timely sexuality education for young people goes to show that most young people in Pakistan are not made aware of the biological and psychological changes that occur at the onset of puberty, leaving most of the young population puzzled, in guilt and most of all open for exploitation. The flip side of the picture also shows that while parents, guardians or caregivers tend to withhold sexuality-related information, young people always manage to find one or the other source to slake their curiosity and seek the truth behind the unanswered questions regardless of morality or conscience.
Anything and everything is just a click away.
An Academic Approach Amalgamated with Islam:
Evidently, this sensitive issue will naturally be met with disdain and discord. What should be brought into light regarding sex education is it should be taught in schools because it gives awareness to the youth about sexual health and sexual anatomy and the proper information about phenomenon related to sex. And this has to be done softly but surely, bearing religious and cultural sensitivities of people in mind.
Our youth have the right to receive and acquire practical knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves and their partners from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), pregnancy, unsafe childbirth or abortion, and sexual abuse or violence.
Fact of the matter is that we live in a modern era where everything is unabashedly exposed. Our youngsters are inundated with sexual content and innuendo at a daily basis so they easily fall prey to the temptations which beckon them to take the wrong and immoral path. It is upsettingly disgusting over how we watch a news bulletin screaming out about children being raped and yet still no action appears to have been taken to control the situation at hand. Let’s face it; this is the world we live in.
The objective isn’t to get the youth more active in sex but rather to arm them with the proper tools and instructions which aids in dealing with the biological changes their bodies are undergoing and have a better understanding of its physical and psychological impact.
The curriculum could be crafted around our Islamic values containing issues as to why pre-marital sex isn’t advisable (STDs, unwanted pregnancy, exploitation). Why sex should be strictly restricted to your spouse and why adultery is socially, morally and psychologically damaging (breach of marital contract and above all – trust). It should be aimed at teaching the sexually frustrated and ignorant youth the basic realities of life.
While Pakistan is one of the 164 signatories of Dakar Education for All (EFA), which very clearly identifies and states “Life Skills” as a basic learning need for all young people, the Government of Pakistan is yet to implement this document in letter and in spirit. It is however encouraging that after concerted efforts from various indigenous and international organisations working on SRH Rights, references to Life Skills Based Education have been included in National Education Policy 2009 and National Youth Policy 2009. Moreover, the Ministry of Education has developed a Life Skills Based Education curriculum for students of grades 9 to 12; however it is yet to be implemented in schools.
The need to make policy level amendments is all the more pressing in view of the fact that Pakistan is currently undergoing demographic dividend and with over 64 per cent of its population consisting of young people. It is important to design interventions to meet the unique needs of this group.
Our nation is experiencing an upsurge of youth, and can no longer afford to ignore the importance of sexual and reproductive health. We must break free from our unanimously employed “tauba tauba” attitude and face matters at hand with solemn veracity and earnestness. We can continue to remain oblivious and allow our youth to grow up amid unnecessary confusion or take on the responsibility to ably nurture our future for flourishing growth and development in high hopes to not be depleted but sustained.