No Family Planning for Pupils - Ministry
Feb 12, 2017
According to the statement; “Ministry of Health’s stand on Family planning for young people remains; Abstinence, Delay of age of sexual debut; Age and context appropriate sexual reproductive health information for young people.”
PIC:State Minister for Health Sarah Opendi discussing the family planning budget (File photo) by Mary Kansiime and Abou Kisige
The Ministry of Health has dismissed allegations that government plans to have pupils from 10 years accessing family planning services
In a statement released yesterday and signed by the Acting Director General, Health Services, Professor Anthony Mbonye, the narrative is based on the National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of 2012, which were not approved and have never been implemented.
"The guidelines are currently being reviewed and updated by the Minister of Health and partners to address changes in facts, statistics and practices, before a revised document can be endorsed for implementation," reads the statement.
According to the statement; "Ministry of Health's stand on Family planning for young people remains; Abstinence, Delay of age of sexual debut; Age and context appropriate sexual reproductive health information for young people."
The National Policy Guidelines and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights according to the Ministry aim at making explicit the direction of reproductive health within the context of primary health care.
"The guidelines under review can only be endorsed after all the queries have been adequately and efficiently addressed and lose ends tightened," the Ministry states.
With figures showing that up to 49% of 20-49 year old women in Uganda married by the age of 18 and teenage pregnancies up to a 30% high in certain regions there has been increasing demand to have sexual and reproductive health as a core component in the school curriculum.
In an earlier interview with Nargis Shiraz, a public health specialist and founder Women to Women Foundation, she argued that unless young people are engaged and empowered on their sexuality, the ugly statistics will continue to highlight national reports.
"Young people as early as 10 years are engaging in sexual activities. But many are victims of ignorance. There is no way we can continue to run away from this ugly reality." she said.
Family Planning according to Moses Kirigwajjo, a maternal health expert does not only mean contraceptive use but education and empowerment to make right and informed choices.
"Family planning is not just about pills or condoms and for young people, it's about self-awareness and equipping them with appropriate information to make the right choices," he said.
Statistics show that the age group 10-24 years contributes up to 24% of maternal deaths. This means that of the 360/100,000 mothers dying of birth related complications, 87 belong to this age group.
Children according to Kirigwajjo have an unlimited audience and therefore need to be empowered with appropriate information to be able to stand negative influence.
In an interview with Aggrey Kibenge, an undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, he highlighted that much as sexual and reproductive health is vital in the learning of pupils; all content has to be measured as per the curriculum standards.
"From as early as lower primary, children are taught about gender differences and body sanctity which is part of sexuality education. But if the ministry of health who have the expertise in this field feel there is a gap that needs to be filled, then appropriate process can followed as per the education standards," he explained adding that all content should be in line with the country's values and cultures.
Kibenge argues that if any policy is to be adopted, there should be clear parameters on what is appropriate for the 10-24 year olds in and out of school. But also what is appropriate for which kind of age.
"The challenges facing young people in school are not necessarily the same as those out of school, so all these have to be considered," Kibenge says.
Sexuality education remains a contentious issue in public with increased skeptism on the content and implementation especially in school.