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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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The African Youth and Adolescents Networking on Population and Development (AfriYAN) 2017 General Assembly and capacity building workshop for young people in Eastern and Southern Africa opens in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

Drawing youth leaders from Eastern and Southern Africa, the General Assembly will run from the 7th to the 9th of November 2017 will usher in a new cohort of young leaders whilst bringing in renewed energy and robust innovation that will guide AfriYAN ESA to the next level of relevance, influence and accountability.

Under the guidance of UNFPA, Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT), UNESCO and other development and implementing partners, the General Assembly aims to foster the development of a better coordinated,managed and structured network that will further the mandate of AfriYAN ESA at regional and national level in the East and Southern Africa region.

The UNESCO/Swedish funded project, “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” was officially launched in Paris, France on 3rd November 2017 at an event that also commemorated UNESCO and Sweden’s partnership in supporting positive health, gender and education outcomes for adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa.

The launch, which took place during the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference featured interventions by UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, the Minister for Education of Sweden, Gustav Fridolin, and Zambia’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Humphrey Chilu Chibanda, representing General Education Minister for Zambia, Dennis Wanchinga.

UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, said the partnership between UNESCO and Sweden was empowering the youth of Africa to make informed and healthy decisions about their future.

“The link between education and health is absolutely unequivocal. Healthy learners are better learners. Better educated learners have the knowledge and skills to stay healthy,” said the Director-General.

Adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa face many sexual and reproductive health challenges, including early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, gender-based violence and child marriage. In the region, AIDS is the leading cause of death in young people aged 10-19 years, with adolescent girls and young women at disproportionate risk, acquiring HIV five to seven years earlier than men.

“Addressing the health challenges that undermine the well-being of sub-Saharan Africa’s young population is a top priority of Sweden’s development and foreign policy,” said the Minister for Education of Sweden, Gustav Fridolin.

“All adolescents and young people deserve the opportunity to develop the skills and competencies they need to reduce early and unintended pregnancies, eliminate gender-based violence and prevent HIV,” added the Minister.

Zambia’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Humphrey Chilu Chibanda, said he was pleased to join other African governments who will benefit from Sweden’s support to implement “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future”.

“The programme will support and accelerate our efforts and commitment to ensure that comprehensive sexuality education empowers adolescents and young people, while developing the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and competencies needed to sustain positive education, health and gender equality outcomes. We fully stand behind young people’s rights, lives and future,” he said.

Through “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future”, UNESCO and Sweden will support UNESCO Member States to provide adolescents and young people with comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) that promotes gender equality and human rights and addresses gender norms and stereotypes. The growing body of evidence confirms that well-implemented sexuality education programmes result in young people delaying age of first sex, reduced frequency of sex, reduced number of sex partners, and increased rates of condom use.

The programme directly contributes to the education, health and gender Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It expands on existing work in Eastern & Southern Africa through the ESA Commitment, with new projects in West and Central Africa. It focuses on Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC and Nigeria, with the benefits set to extend to Benin, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Sweden has committed 79.7 million SEK (approximately 10 million USD) over the next three years to the “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” project, bringing their total support for CSE to 220 million SEK (approximately 30 million USD) over an 8-year period.

#YouthSRHNOW is a social media campaign to mobilise youth engagement in promoting action on commitments made by 20 East and Southern Africa countries in the ESA Commitment (2013), which calls for access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Youth Friendly Health Services for young people in the region. The campaign will run throughout November and much of December 2017.

The main hashtag used across all social media platforms will be #YouthSRHNOW. In addition, dialogue on Comprehensive Sexuality Education will rally around the call #NotWithoutCSE, while on Youth Friendly Health Services it will be #NotWithoutYFS.

Join us for this exciting campaign by following and engaging with our platforms on Twitter and Facebook today.

For more information, please contact Young People Today through: esacommitment@unesco.org

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Panelists during an episode on Wanasa Dukuri

The media remains central in informing, educating and entertaining communities. In South Sudan, UNESCO and Smile Again Africa Development Organization (SAADO) are co-sponsoring a radio talk show on Comprehensive Sexuality Education titled Wanasa Dukuri aired every Wednesdays from 12-1 p.m. on Eye Radio station.

Wanasa Dukuri, meaning Straight Talk in Arabic, intends to create a platform to discuss challenges faced by young people which include peer pressure, early sexual debut, gender based violence, adolescent pregnancies, early marriage, HIV among other health related topics.

The programme which targets policy makers, teachers, young people parents and guardians calls for the provision of information and services for young people in a bid to have a well-informed youth populace that can realize positive health and education outcomes in South Sudan.

Wanasa Dukuri aims to reach out to over 1 million listeners with scientifically accurate, age and culturally appropriate information.[:]

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UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Team for Eastern and Southern Africa (RTESA) and the Swedish Regional Team on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (RTSRHR) will meet from the 27th to the 30th of June 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa to review a UNESCO led project that has been supported by Sweden since 2013.

The project entitled Strengthening sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention amongst children and young people through promoting comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), is currently being implemented in 21 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

During the course of implementation, the project has garnered high-level political support for comprehensive sexuality education in Eastern and Southern Africa and reached more than 26 million young people, teachers, parents and communities in the region through training and the mass media.

The review meeting will bring together various stakeholders including government officers from ministries of education and health, UNESCO National Program Officers, regional civil society organizations, faith-based organizations young people, and other UN agencies.

Some of the themes to be discussed and reflected upon include School-related gender-based violence, early and unintended pregnancy, comprehensive sexuality education, and youth friendly services. The meeting will also feature skills-building sessions on gender norms, community mobilization and how to engage faith communities.

Following the successful implementation of the project, discussions between UNESCO and Sweden are underway for a second phase. The phase entitled, “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” will reach 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including those from West and Central Africa (Angola, Botswana, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

For more information, please contact: p.machawira(at)unesco.org or r.shawa(at)unesco.org[:]

[:en]The Zambia Ministry of General Education hosted a 14 member Ugandan delegation for an exchange visit on sexuality education from 29th May to 2nd June 2017. The visit, which represented a rare opportunity for south-to-south learning, allowed Uganda and Zambia to learn from each other’s experiences on scaling up comprehensive sexuality education.

The Minister of General Education in Zambia, Honorable, Dr. Dennis Wanchinga commended the exchange visit and called for the continued exchange of ideas and experiences between Uganda and Zambia.

“It is important to learn from another country’s experience as this facilitates a shared experience which can be adopted and mainstreamed,” said Honorable, Dr. Dennis Wanchinga.

 

The Ugandan delegation, led by Executive Director for the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV and AIDS- Uganda (OAFLA-UG), Ms. Beat Bisangwa was composed of members of Parliament, senior officials from Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Gender,  Uganda AIDS Commission and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda.

The team had an opportunity to meet with stakeholders who were involved in the CSE scale up process including the Ministry of General Education in Zambia, Zambia Interfaith Networking Group (ZINGO), The National Assembly of Zambia, National AIDS Council, United Nations country team in Zambia and civil society organizations offering CSE and youth friendly services. The highlight of the mission was the visit to Kabulonga primary school, where delegates had the opportunity to sit in a Religious Education lesson. Religious Education is one of the carrier subjects for CSE in Zambia.

Central to the discussions was the process that Zambia took in integrating into the curriculum, and the school examinations and the approach to teacher training. Delegates were also keen to understand the partnerships forged in the development of the national sexuality education framework and the linkages between CSE information and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Engagement of religious leaders stood out as an important factor in maintaining value systems and also to ensure that the sexuality framework is in accordance with a country’s cultural and religious values.

“Religion plays a critical role in shaping moral values of our young people,” said Ms. Julie Baratita- Esmeralda Acting Executive Director for Zambia Interfaith Networking Group (ZINGO).

“As such, engagement of religious institutions right from the outset facilitated the acceptance and understanding of the benefits of CSE for all young people. Working with religious leaders was also important as it allowed Zambia to reach out to parents, young people, and communities at large,” she added.

The head of the delegation, Ms. Beat Bisangwa, commended the exchange visit as having granted Uganda an opportunity to enrich the process of developing a National Sexuality Framework guided by national values. The Ugandan delegation committed to using the lessons drawn from the visit to inform the completion of the National Framework for Sexuality Education in Uganda, which will be presented to the Ugandan Parliament.

The exchange visit was made possible by support from UN agencies in Uganda and Zambia.[:]

[:en]Partners who attended the Expanded Technical Coordination Group (TCG) meeting on the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Adolescent and Youth-friendly Sexual Reproductive Health Services held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 17-18 May 2017 called for strategic resource mobilization to sustain implementation of the Commitment.

The meeting which attracted 85 participants from 18 countries, including representatives from Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and United Nations agencies discussed funding mechanism at length and acknowledged the alternating trends in donor funding.

Speaking at the meeting, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Secretariat representative, Dr. Vitalis Chipfakacha described the nature of most projects implemented in the region as a mainly donor funded and hence limiting local ownership. He emphasized the need to have domestic funding mechanisms and strengthening of existing ones to enable the sustenance of the ESA commitment.

The meeting also explored regional and country progress along with best practices towards increasing knowledge levels among young people in the ESA region, reducing new HIV infections, child marriages, teenage pregnancies and School-related gender-based violence.

In her welcoming remarks, the outgoing UNAIDS Director for Regional Support Team (RST) for Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou said there was a need to integrate sexuality education into the curriculum making the subject examinable and also ensuring youth friendly health services are accessible to adolescents and young people in their localities.

Countries deliberated on key issues posing as setbacks in the implementation of the ESA Commitment and planned for an accelerated implementation of the Commitment in the region. Some of the priority issues drawn include meaningful engagement of traditional leaders; increasing knowledge levels on HIV prevention among young people through capacity building of teachers in CSE; creating strong referral pathways between education and health facilities, and strengthening the internal coordination of the commitments at a country level.

 

The role of Civil Society Organisations in implementing the ESA Commitment was affirmed as they complement governments and UN agencies at regional and country level. The CSOs platform to be led by the African Youth and Adolescents Networking on Population and Development (AfriYAN) will draft an Operational Plan and conduct a regional mapping of lead organizations that will sit in-country coordination committees.

“It is always a good step to come back to the drawing board, take stock and refocus. This is the time to refocus and ensure the targets set in the commitment are met and our young people realize their full potential,” said Dr. Patricia Machawira, Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor for UNESCO.

The 2017 TCG meeting came at the backdrop of milestone achievements in the ESA Commitment, which include the reaffirmation of the commitment in 2016, mainstreaming of sexuality education into education curricula and reaching 25 million young people, parents and community members since 2013.

For more information on the Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Adolescent and youth friendly Sexual Reproductive Health service provision visit:  http://youngpeopletoday.net/the-commitment/

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UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa in collaboration with the UNESCO Institute of Educational planning (IIEP) is hosting an online training course on Quantitative methods in monitoring and evaluating the education sector response to HIV and AIDS.

The training which commenced on the 24th of April and running till the 2nd of June 2017, seeks to reinforce skills in collecting, analyzing and reporting internationally recognized core indicators to measure education sector response to HIV and in formulating policies to monitor and evaluate the education sector response to HIV and AIDS.

Approximately 80 participants from 15 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa region and one team from West Africa who are members of the Education Management Information System in the Ministries of Education, HIV focal points in the education sector and UNESCO National Programme Officers for HIV and Health Education are taking part.

The course aims to ensure participants are able to review indicators associated with monitoring and evaluating the education sector response. Additionally, participants will learn to critically examine the quality of annual school census questionnaires, to construct the core indicators and additional indicators that are relevant for their country context and to identify the most relevant indicators. Participants will interact with the three modules of the course.

The education sector is identified as important to impart knowledge and personal skills, which are essential for HIV prevention. In countries with a generalized HIV epidemic, the education sector is key in contributing to mitigate the impact of AIDS on students, education personnel, their families, and communities.

 

“I hope participants will gain more knowledge with regards to monitoring and evaluating the delivery of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) using internationally recognized core indicators to measure the education sector response to HIV. It is my hope that skills of countries to collect, analyze and report on the indicators will be reinforced so that we are able to tell the world the great work we are doing.”

Patricia Machawira, PhD
UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor, Eastern and Southern Africa

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[:en]In a bid to strengthen and effectively implement the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), and Adolescent and youth-friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) services in Eastern and Southern African (ESA), the Technical Coordination Group (TCG) is set to meet in Johannesburg, South Africa from the 17th to 19th May 2017 to discuss progress, challenges and priority areas to meet the Commitment’s 2020 targets.

The Technical Coordinating Group which meets every year under the leadership of UNAIDS and with support from SADC and EAC Secretariats, plays a key role in the management of the ESA Commitment process and the implementation of the accountability mechanism.

An expanded TCG meeting has been proposed to include ESA Commitment Focal Points, and civil society organizations’ (CSO), core TCG group, UN partners and the private sector from all 21 ESA countries to ensure a rich discussion informed, in part, by country experiences and lessons learned.

The 2017 TCG meeting comes at the backdrop of the re-affirmation of the ESA Commitment by Ministers of Health through a call to action tag lined “Let’s Step Up and Deliver” along with the Roadmap 2020 which were adopted during the 2016 AIDS Conference and will see an expansion in the nature of discussions with the inclusion of key stakeholders in the implementation, monitoring and accountability of the commitment.

Also scheduled for discussion will be how countries and Civil Society Organizations can operationalize the roadmap towards the year 2020 targets (2020 Road Map); discuss resource mobilization strategies such as how to advocate for increased domestic resources; ESA Commitment coordination and mechanisms to improve partner engagement; and how to institutionalize CSE and youth-friendly services for in and out of school adolescents and youth.

In 2015, the Eastern and Southern Africa Commitment progress report noted that after two years of implementing the ESA Commitment across 21 countries, significant progress was made in achieve targets set out in the 2013 Commitment. The report also cited relevant work required to improve the quality of comprehensive sexuality education and health services that are delivered to young people, as well as the quality and coverage of training for educators and health service providers.[:]