Most parents, teachers reluctant to discuss sensitive issues with children

May 1, 2013 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: Most parents and teachers are reluctant to discuss sensitive issues with children and inform them about the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, which pushes them to seek information from unreliable sources and exposes them to exploitation.

This finding was derived from a baseline study conducted by ‘Lifeline’. Addressing a press conference, Chief Executive of Lifeline Omer Aftab said that there was a severe vacuum of information in the 100 million plus Pakistani youth. To date, no serious, concerted efforts have been made to sensitize them on their basic rights. Without proper guidance, youth falls into bad ways and is scarred for life. The LSBE course, which is a major initiative, is being taught mostly in urban and semi urban areas and ignores 62% of the population.

The objective of the study was to “gauge and assess the level of understanding of different key stakeholders about adolescent & youth sexual and reproductive health right SRHR issues”. Data was collected from 9 districts of Pakistan, including Islamabad, Lahore, Lodhran, Karachi, Jamshoro, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Quetta and Pishin. Adolescents, parents, teachers, politicians, prominent religious leaders, EDO’s, District Managers of Population Welfare Departments and NGO representatives of the select districts made the target respondents for the study.

Sixty Two 62 percent girls and sixty seven 67 percent boys in Islamabad have heard about their reproductive health rights, as compared to only 39% girls and 50% boys in Lahore and 53% girls and 48% boys in Karachi. Knowledge about contraceptive practices, sexually transmitted infections STIs, emotional aspects of growing up, gender based violence is low. These findings were also the part of the baseline study conducted by Lifeline.

Lifeline also conducted a curriculum review and Learning Needs Assessment LNA of the Life Skill Based Education LSBE course that is taught in certain schools. The LSBE course imparts basic knowledge to adolescents to help them to cope with the physiological, psychological, political and social changes in their lives. Lifeline’s review of this course has revealed that 83.3% and 74.7% students have reported an increase in knowledge and change in thinking due to the course. 84.4% of students between 12 and 15 years are in favour of the course being taught in schools. Furthermore, no objections were raised to teach the LSBE course by any quarter, including religious leaders and politicians.

Teachers and students suggested that instead of the same course being taught to all students between 12 and 17 years, a more stepwise approach be taken, i.e. certain topics be taught to younger students 1213 year olds and the level and extent of information be increased when taught to older students. Lifeline also recommends that the sensitization of teachers is of paramount importance. They must be trained and their training material should include reproductive anatomy and physiology in detail, so their misconceptions are removed.

Omer Aftab also dispelled false impressions that have nothing to do with religion but centuries old rites and customs of this region. “Our religion does not forbid us from discussing or imparting proper guidance to the children on these sensitive issues,” he further added. The issue should not be labelled as socially proscribed topic and parents especially in middle and lower middle classes should discuss these issues with their children.” It may be recalled here that growing age introduces hyperactivity of hormones that results into emotional ups and downs for youth and as a result they may face multi faceted adjustment problems in society.

The most interesting result of the study is that 85.3% girls, 94.6% boys and 99% of all politicians, teachers, journalists and religious leaders endorse the idea of teaching SRH in schools. Aftab said, “The society is ready for positive change. Change will only come about if cultural misconceptions were addressed by proper Islamic principles that provide guidance on the emotional and physiological aspects of growing up, peer pressure, birth spacing, information on HIV/AIDS, intimacy and relationships and gender based violence.”