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Preparing Teachers to Close the Knowledge and Skills Gap in Sexuality Education

A regional meeting was held this week to focus on teacher training in comprehensive sexuality education in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Countries included in the meetings: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Young people in East and Southern Africa (ESA) face many challenges today. Nearly two thirds lack basic knowledge to access crucial sexuality education and health information to protect themselves from issues related to HIV and early pregnancy. With adolescents and young people making up over one third of the region’s population, it is critical we act now.

“Sixty per cent of young people aged 10 to 24 years lack the basic knowledge they need to prevent HIV, due to a lack of sexuality education,” said Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, Regional Director of UNFPA East and Southern Africa, at a meeting hosted by UNFPA and UNESCO in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26–28, 2014. “Comprehensive sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health services, education and skills building for adolescents and young people need to be placed at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with specific indicators and targets.”

The education and health sectors recognize the urgency facing young people and have committed to improving comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly health services through a historical ESA commitment signed in December 2013. This commitment has targets to be completed by 2015 and 2020. Some of the key tasks included in these targets are devising strategies to develop and implement a comprehensive sexuality education curricula framework and conducting effective training for teachers and health providers.

The meeting focused on the status of teacher training in sexuality education for East and Southern Africa. UNESCO and UNFPA, with support from USAID, commissioned a situational analysis in 2013 to review the status of pre- and in-service teacher training on sexuality education in 21 countries in ESA. The key findings of the report were presented during the meeting. At the regional level, the report is to be used for the development of a coordinated regional approach to improving teacher training programmes in the ESA region, in order to scale up and sustain quality CSE.

Dr. Onabanjo said the policies and procedures that would be put in place at the meeting had the potential to improve the lives of the largest numbers of adolescents and young people in Africa’s history.

“By better preparing teachers, their supervisors and tutors with the appropriate training, materials and mandate to teach sexuality education including HIV, the education sector may close the knowledge and skills gap faced by many students across the region,” said Professor Sheila Tlou, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team.

These words were echoed by SADC Secretariat’s Lomthandazo Mavimbela: “This training is so important. However, training alone is not enough – further coaching and ongoing mentoring and support is essential for successful curriculum implementation,” she said.

“In order for comprehensive sexuality education curricula to be effective, there needs to be adequate support, training, resources, and mentoring for teachers,” said Dr. Patricia Machawira, Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor with UNESCO. “Effective training must have a personal impact on teachers, allowing them to reflect on their own attitudes so that they not only internalize content they are teaching but gain confidence in discussing these topics in the classroom in a non-judgemental and rights-based manner.”

Indeed, the unifying vision continues to be this: That every young African is resilient and informed, making their own decisions, fostering healthy relationships, accessing proper health care, actively participating in their education and ultimately, contributing to the development of their community and their future.

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