Whether the title of this blog post sounds hypothetical or not, the right answer lies in the question itself; should we allow young people to access family planning methods and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) or the other option of denying them access and let them get Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and fall pregnant?
In the name of what is loosely called ‘protecting the moral fabric’; children out there are having their own children, young people are dropping out of school and dying due to early pregnancies, AIDS and some more are becoming sterile due to STIs and unsafe abortions.
By extension, unsafe abortions are also claiming many lives of young girls every year. Furthermore, it is an irrefutable fact that obstetric fistula is a nightmare that await young pregnant girls in the maternity wings of our clinics.
The unemployment rate of young people in Malawi is astonishingly high. However, does anyone know that some of these unemployed youths are supposed to be in school? What drives them into the labour market is the fact that they impregnated or got pregnant then dropped out of school and found themselves in streets. From sun rise till sun set, they are moving up and down looking for ways of earning an income to support their babies who were born by chance and not by choice.
A careful analysis of the aforementioned problematic issues pertaining to sexual reproductive health of young people will inform you that each individual consequence also has its accompanying pitiful aftermaths. There has to be an answer to such challenges.
The advantages of abstinence from sex have, for so long, been preached but nothing has really changed. Sexually active young people are still facing the consequences of unsafe sex. Of course, there are some young people who are practicing abstinence but at the same time, a good number of them are indulging in unprotected sex and they are constantly challenged by the hectic outcomes.
The world in general and Malawi in particular, should not be in such a fix where by it is losing the potential that is in otherwise bright young people due to lack of comprehensive sexuality education and lack of access to family planning methods that can protect them from all this. Something has to be done because it shows that we need to do our mathematics and get our calculations right.
Before I stop punching the buttons, I would like to state the factor that prompted me to write this blog. A Primary School Education Advisor somewhere in Chiradzulu district told me and my colleagues during an interface meeting that a total number of six girls did not sit for their Primary School leaving certificate because they were pregnant. He added that such cases are a usual feature in many primary schools and his facial expression said, ‘enough is enough, something has to be done to avoid such cumbersome scenarios’.
Sadly still, he further stated that such children do not go back to school after delivery as they are burdened with the task of raising their children, a thing which is not easy more especially to a girl who is below the age of 15.
I regret the fact that they had had an unprotected sex. Who knows where their academic journey could have taken them to? Nonetheless, all is not lost, such young girls and I understand there are a lot more others out there, need support and encouragement for them to go back to school and revive their dreams.
All this is happening in a society where the elders and the society at large are saying comprehensive sexuality education is a taboo subject that should not be offered to the youths. The same elders wear brave faces and say family planning methods are not for the youth. They say this amidst cases of early pregnancies and they fully know that young people of today will grow and have families of their own in the near future. So! Why not allow them to plan for that now?