By Johannes Chin’ombe
MASVINGO, November 16, 2015 – Youths in Masvingo recently bemoaned the unavailability of condoms in schools as they argued that they have learnt a lot on sexual reproductive health though relevant stakeholders have neglected the reality facing pupils of school going age ultimately leading them to make use of wierd methods such as wearing freezit packets for protection in substitute for a condom.
Youths who attended a Health Coordination Forum organised by the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) in the ancient city recently said there is need for government to churn out condoms to schools urgently to end the rising number of young teens being affected by Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s).
“As youths, we have had a lot of training programmes on sexual reproductive health. We however feel that it is high time this programme reaches out to pupils of ages 14 – 18 and these are basically school going ages. Our plight is from the discovery that most of us who are above 18 are able to make solid and bold decisions when it comes to sex as compared to those in the early teens. This I say because many would agree with me that most school going pupils are sexually active and have been using uncertified ways as empty freezit plastics to protect themselves just because condoms are not made available in schools,” said a worried youth, Amos Jekere.
“The act that pupils use freezit plastics to substitute condoms itself shows that sexual reproductive health messages are not being given to school children. Some may argue that its ignorance, but a burning question will again bounce back to responsible authorities that are they giving these pupils condoms so that they use proper protection when having sexual intercourse,” added Jekere in a sombre tone.
“School going pupils aged between 14 and 18 are reportedly the most affected in terms of being infected by STD’s as compared to any other age groups. One notable reason for the recurrent cases of STD’s in young teenagers being that information related to sexual reproductive health has not been available to them for long. They do not need the education alone but condoms available to them publicly in schools as well so that they use proper protection. School children simply improvise because they lack education and information,” said another participant, Ronald Majomba.
“The only solution to this is having condoms available in their toilets. This would make protection more available to them since their ages do not qualify them to enter bars for collection. They even fear collecting condoms from hospitals and clinics as the processes are usually associated with many threatening questions from nurses,” added another youth, Brighton Matura.
“Some children believe that what they are taught at church are the right things. Church leaders and elders should therefore act and educate these young teenagers on sexual and reproductive health.Children do not only need condoms, they also need education about sex and its side effects because the majority of these children indulge in sex not because they have the desire for sex but because of lack of knowledge and peer pressure. Lack of knowledge thereby leads them to believing that everything your peers are doing is good,” explained another youth Linda Machemedze.
“We have had cases that twelve year olds are being treated of STD’s nowadays though the numbers have been constantly static. However, such cases should be warning shots to responsible authorities especially the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education that they make condoms available in schools to avoid rampant spread of STD’s in the society through these young teens as most of them confess being sexually active during our various encounters with them,” revealed a female nurse from Masvingo General Hospital who declined to be named.
Masvingo Provincial Education Director, Zedias Chitiga said it was worrisome that pupils show such lack of knowledge on sexual reproductive health though he directed further questions on what his ministry is doing to rectify the challenge to the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora.
“I have no clue that such a thing is happening and directly affecting pupils of school going age. It is quite saddening. I recall the issue being tabled and debated before parliament and would advise that you await parliamentary resolution on the issue or directly get in touch with Dr Dokora on current development to the issue of having condoms available in schools,” Chitiga said.
Zimbabwe National Planning Council provincial manager, Peter Vhoko also said his organisation is saddened to receive such reports though he maintained that they cannot just implement programs that distribute condoms to schools without government’s concert.
“As people who work towards curbing unwanted pregnancies, premature marriages and STD’s among several other programs, we are worried to receive such reports especially from the youths. We cannot however go ahead and just give out condoms in schools, neither can we start any program with schools with the government not knowing because we work together, we complement each other,” Vhoko said.
Meanwhile, a Youth Risk Behaviour Survey conducted by Advocate for Youths revealed that 53.1 % of high school students have had sexual intercourse with 20.9 % of the males and 14.4 % of the females having had sexual intercourse with four or more people. It also further disclosed that only 54.4 % of sexually active students reported using a condom at last intercourse. The organisation’s statistics has it that AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death for among those 15- to 24-years-old.