By: Sanet L. Steenkamp, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Namibia

The core responsibility of education systems is imparting the fundamental building blocks of learning, namely the ‘3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet national education authorities are increasingly recognizing that while their core responsibility remains crucial, they must also reach beyond it.

Education systems are being called upon to not only help our children learn essential knowledge and skills to navigate an increasingly complex and inter-connected world, but also protect them from inaccurate information driven by myths and value-laden taboos, or harmful social and cultural norms, such as those surrounding gender and power in inter-personal relationships.The core responsibility of education systems is imparting the fundamental building blocks of learning, namely the ‘3 R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet national education authorities are increasingly recognizing that while their core responsibility remains crucial, they must also reach beyond it.

Fulfilling this responsibility means empowering young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes for them to be able to make healthy decisions in all aspects of their lives – including their sexual and reproductive health. In Namibia, great emphasis has been placed on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as an important component in achieving this goal.

Learning about sexuality and relationships is good for young people

The 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report indicated that comprehensive sexuality education was one of the most pressing and universal priorities for the health, well-being and development of young people.

For too many young people, the journey to adulthood can be an obstacle course of challenges. The leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years globally is complications from pregnancy, unsafe abortion and childbirth. More than 2 million adolescents are living with HIV. Three in four new HIV infections in adolescents happen in sub-Saharan Africa, and for every five adolescent boys living with HIV, there are seven girls. In Namibia, teenage pregnancy rates among 15- to 19-year-olds is 19%, according to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey.

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