Accra, June 07, GNA - A study conducted by the University of Cape Coast has revealed that Sexually Reproductive Health (SRH) has called for the creation of safe environment in schools for young people to discuss SRH issues.
The study revealed that issues on SRH were rarely discussed by young ones making it difficult them to express themselves in front of others in school.
Presenting the findings in Accra, Professor Dr Kofi Awusabo-Asare of the University of Cape Coast said there was inadequate information, which hindered sexual and reproductive health in the schools.
The study, “From Paper to Practice: Sexuality Education Policies and Implementation in Ghana”, was conducted jointly by researchers at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute.
The study was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The research team undertook an analysis of policies and curricula regarding SRH education in Ghana and their implementation in senior high schools, focusing on three geographically diverse regions: Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo and Northern Region.
Dr Awusabo-Asare explained that there was wide spread support for in-school SRH education in Ghana whilst policies and curricula have been developed and were continuously updated to meet the changing needs of adolescents.
He said at the senior high school level, SRH topics were integrated into two core subjects-social studies and integrated science and two electives –biology and management in living subjects as well as into other two co-curricular activities –school health education programme.
He said a comprehensive SRH education was an integral to ensuring that adolescents were equipped with the information they need to achieve healthy sexual and reproductive lives and to avoid negative health outcomes.
Programmes that recognize that sexual activity among adolescents is normal; that seek to ensure adolescents practice safe sex; that actively engage their participants; and that focus on rights, gender equality and empowerment, have been shown to have a positive impact on several aspects of adolescents’ lives.
“Nearly half of the students we surveyed reported that they would have preferred to have had sexual and reproductive health education sooner than they did,” Dr Awusabo-Asare added.
“It is critical that this education begins early, prior to sexual initiation, to provide adolescents with age-appropriate, comprehensive and accurate information to make healthy choices.”
The report found that three-fourths of surveyed students have been exposed to at least one topic in each of the five categories, but only eight percent of students reported learning about all of the topics that constitute a comprehensive programme.
Adolescents reported that they need practical information about how to prevent STIs (including HIV), how to prevent unintended pregnancies, and how to communicate and negotiate within relationship, - issues not adequately covered in abstinence-focused curricula.
“According to international standards, comprehensive SRH education should cover a range of topics, which fit into five key categories identified by the study team: sexual and reproductive physiology; HIV/STI prevention; contraception and unintended pregnancy; values and interpersonal skills; and gender and sexual and reproductive rights”, the study added.
Ms Melissa Stillman, a Guttmacher researcher, said "abstinence-only education programs have shown little evidence of improving adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health outcomes."
“Rather, the adolescents surveyed report that they need practical information about how to prevent STIs, including HIV, how to prevent pregnancy, and how to communicate and negotiate within relationships.”
The study found that 23 percent of female and 27 percent of male students had already had sex at the time of the survey, and some likely did so before they were taught the skills and knowledge they need to practice safe sex and lead healthy sexual and reproductive lives.
The study recommended that age-appropriate SRH education start early in schools, well prior to sexual initiation.
It said primary and junior high schools are important points of entry for comprehensive SRH education, given that 85–90 percent of adolescents in Ghana attend these levels, but only half (48 per cent) attend senior high school.
Teachers are the main source of information for students in Ghana, and the quality of teaching depends on their preparedness, confidence, knowledge and skills. Teachers from various disciplines cover SRH topics, leading to variability in emphasis.
The report also recommended that teacher training be standardized and improved to adequately prepare educators with the skills they need to teach these programs effectively.
To ensure the healthy development of adolescents and to support their transition to adulthood as well as to match the strong commitment that the government has shown over the years, the comprehensiveness of SRH education offered in core curricula must be improved to meet international standards, and appropriate resources must be provided to ensure adequate teacher preparation.
Dr Joana Neequaye Tetteh a Reproductive Health Expert working with Guttmacher Institute said the goal of the study was to provide a robust, comprehensive analysis of policies and curricula regarding SRH education in Ghana.
She commended the research team for their hard work and urged government to implement the findings of the study to improve on the sexuality education of the youth.
Mr Charles Aheto Tsegah former Acting Executive Director at National Council for Curriculum and Assessment of the Ghana Education, who launched the report said government has demonstrated a strong commitment to SRH education by implementing programmes in schools nationwide.
He said while SRH education in Ghana was advanced, compared to that in other countries in the region, information was often presented from a reactive perspective and focuses on the importance of abstinence and the dangers of sexual activity.
He called for the need to create that enabling environment to ensure the youth freely discuss SRH issues among themselves in schools and in public.