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Opinions of Thursday, 9 August 2018

Columnist: Caesar Kaba Kogoziga

Double-Track system; another case for comprehensive sexuality education in Ghana

The government of Ghana has announced an emergency decision to implement a new double-track system in senior high schools, effective from September 2018. This according to government is necessitated by the overflow of class size to as high as 120 students after the implementation of free senior high school education last September.

This has increased pressure on the limited infrastructure in Ghanaian senior high schools, a well-intended policy has now been threatened, hence government’s decision to implement this emergency policy till 2025, by which time government expects to have expanded educational facilities and return to the single-track system.

Government argues that the policy will create room for students who but for the free senior high schools would have been dropped out of school. And that the policy will reduce class size for better quality. However, government has come under serious criticism for its decision to implement this policy.

One thing that is still lacking in the discussion thus far is the implication of the policy on the Sexual and Reproductive Health of these students and its influence on the education of the girl child in Ghana. Education of young people can not be done in isolation from Sexual and Reproductive Health, this policy would be better executed with inputs from SRHR based Civil Society organizations like PPAG, Maries Stopes Ghana, UNFPA Ghana, IPAS Ghana and the rest. Who for several years have advocated for the inclusion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education(CSE) in the school curriculum.

In 2016, pregnancy rates among adolescent girls ranged from 15.4% in the upper east region to 6% in the Greater Accra region according to Ghana Health Service reports. In the first half of 2017 alone, 57,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded countrywide.

What impact can this new education policy have on adolescent’s sexual behaviour, teenage pregnancy and STI transmission? What will it mean to keep young people out of school longer?

According to research, the average person has sex two times in every 10 days. However, on holidays, this shoots up to a whopping 9 times every 10 days. In a study conducted in South Africa on teenage pregnancy among rural South African young women, results showed that among girls enrolled in school, pregnancy occurred less commonly during school term than during school holidays.

Because Sexual activity may be less likely to occur during periods of school enrolment due to the structured and supervised environment provided, the education obtained, and the safer peer networks encountered while enrolled. (Rosenberg et al., 2015). It was concluded that Young women out of school may be at higher risk for teenage pregnancy and could likely bene?t from receipt of accessible and high quality sexual health services.

Among youth who are in school, greater attachment is associated with less sexual risk-taking. In particular, investment in school, school involvement, attachment to school, or school performance have been found to be related to age of initiation of sex, frequency of sex, pregnancy, and childbearing(Kirby & Kirby, 2010), and by logic, STI transmission. Social scientists and educators have proffered a wide variety of explanations for how this impact comes about: First, Schools structure students' time and limit the amount of time that students can be alone and engage in sex. Second, Schools increase interaction with and attachment to adults who discourage risk-taking behaviour of any kind. Also, Schools affect selection of friends and larger peer groups that are important to them.(Kirby & Kirby, 2010).

Comprehensive Sexuality Education(CSE) includes scientifically accurate, curriculum-based information about human development, anatomy, pregnancy and related complications, contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. But it goes beyond information to encourage confidence and improved communication skills. Over the years, there has been so much advocacy for the inclusion of CSE in the Ghanaian school Curricula, but nothing has been seen yet. As Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah (National Population Council boss) stated in the relaunch of Prof. Fred Sai institute; Just as education of adolescents to become medical doctors has not proven to make them murderers. So has giving reproductive health education to adolescents not proven to make them promiscuous.

Free Senior High School alone is inadequate, to secure the future of the youth, government must immediately engage Civil Society Organizations in SRHR. A collaboration must be formed to find the best way to inform young people on their sexuality. Most importantly, Government must incorporate CSE in school curricula to help inform our youth and put them in the right position to make informed choices. It does not made sense to invest so much in young people’s education and leave them exposed to several health problems and teenage pregnancy because of lack of information. If nothing is done to this regard, the rates of teenage pregnancy and STI transmission in Ghana might increase in the coming years as an effect o the double-track system. There is still time for government to intervene.
Kirby, D., & Kirby, D. (2010). The impact of schools and school programs upon adolescent sexual behavior The Impact of Schools and School Programs Upon Adolescent Sexual Behavior, 4499.
Rosenberg, M., Pettifor, A., Miller, W. C., Thirumurthy, H., Emch, M., & Afolabi, S. A. (2015). Relationship between school dropout and teen pregnancy among rural South African young women, 90(August 2018), 928–936.

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