NGOs urge Rwanda govt to give condoms to students

Friday November 25 2016

Students at a public function. Teenage pregnancy has been described as a major challenge to Rwanda whose numbers are increasing, especially in the rural areas. PHOTO | DANIEL S NTWALI

Students at a public function. Teenage pregnancies in Rwanda have been blamed on lack of information about sex. FILE PHOTO | DANIEL S NTWALI | Early pregnancies  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Kayitesi Kaven

Young people should be allowed to have access to facilities that promote safe sex if sex education is to have any impact on the rise in teenage pregnancies in Rwanda, local health advocacy groups have said.

Early pregnancies in the country have been blamed on lack of information about sex. A comprehensive sexual education programme was introduced into the school curriculum by the government early this year.

Local NGOs are now calling on the government to consider availing condoms to young people, especially those in secondary schools, to tackle teenage pregnancies.

“In addition to sex education, it is important that the young people have access to condoms and even contraceptives so as to prevent HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies,” said Dr Aflodis Kagaba, co-founder and executive director of Health Development Initiative (HDI), a local NGO.

In 2011, the HDI together with other local NGOs started a campaign to introduce condoms to secondary schools in Rwanda in response to the demand for them by young people.

The initiative however was rejected, with dissenting voices saying that the introduction of condoms in schools would only serve to encourage early sexual activity among the teenagers.

Though rejected, the initiative sparked a national debate that led to the introduction of sex education in schools in the country, with the aim of informing young people on human development and sexuality as well as equipping them with skills to prevent HIV/Aids and unwanted pregnancies.

According to Dr Joyce Musabe, the head of the curriculum and pedagogical materials department at the Rwanda Education Board, it is still too early to assess the impact of the comprehensive programme.

“We cannot quite tell the impact of the sex education programme since it was only introduced early this year, but we are hopeful that teenage pregnancies will significantly reduce as more young people make informed choices and decisions concerning their sexuality,” said Dr Musabe.

Dr Kagaba however warns against presenting only one preventive approach to the students, saying that the information given should be holistic.

“The success of the comprehensive sexuality education programme will depend on how open the teachers are to discuss all preventive options of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and not just abstinence,” Dr Kagaba said.

A report on early pregnancies in Rwanda indicated that more cases were reported in 2015 than this year.

The report by Cladho, an umbrella body for Human-Rights Organisations in Rwanda, indicated that 265 cases of teenage pregnancies were reported in 2015 while 103 cases have been reported so far this year.