Seychelles: Addressing teenage pregnancies

Seychelles: Addressing teenage pregnancies


Date: July 17, 2019
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Mr Padayachy presenting a token of appreciation to Seychelles Trading Company (STC) for supporting young mothers with jobs

By Laura Pillay

Addressing teenage pregnancies through Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and making contraception available to teenagers

The rate of teenage pregnancies in the Republic of Seychelles, has increased steadily over the years. Despite the inclusion of sexuality education in the school curriculum under the Personal, Social and Citizenship Education (PSE) programme, the small island nation has yet to stem teenage pregnancies.

The problem, says Jacques Koui of the Ministry of Education, is that sexuality and topics pertaining to sex and gender are often overlooked by teaching professionals and dismissed as “vulgar”.

Mr Koui, who is the Curriculum Development Officer for PCSE, explains that PCSE encapsulates family life and health education, careers guidance and careers education, moral education, citizenship education and as per an agreement between the government and Catholic Church, religious education.

The PSCE programme is available at Primary-level and Secondary-level while Citizenship Education (CE) is offered as a standalone programme at Post-Secondary level.

“Sexuality is addressed as a vast spectrum under family life and health education and this covers puberty, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) amongst others. PSCE is allocated two 40-minute periods per week at Primary Level and Secondary Level and considering all the elements that have to be covered, we cannot explore them all as broadly as we want” Mr Koui says.

He noted a challenge the Ministry is faced with is teachers who refuse to acknowledge and teach sexuality-related topics on the basis of their religious beliefs or simply because they do not feel comfortable to do so.

“Sexuality is an issue that we do not want to talk about even if we have a culture where sex is culturally available behind closed doors. The teachers have been trained very well but many do not address it in their classrooms and even for those who are comfortable to teach it, are parents and the school speaking the same language?”.

Mr Koui notes that sex is seldom talked about by parents, limiting young adults’ access to contraception.  The law dictates that individuals aged 15 can access contraception with the consent of their parents.

“Parents and society must complement what the school is doing. Adults must guide young people and educate them to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviour. Are our children seeing good things happening in our society? Are our families stable? Promiscuity is commonplace in Seychelles, what message are we sending to our youths?”.

Mr Dean Padayachy, the founder of Brother Dudes, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) dedicated towards helping young mothers in need of guidance and support supports the argument to revise the curriculum to include broader CSE, a rights-based and gender-focused approach to sexuality education, to empower young women.

 

CSE Programmes are based on human rights principles, geared towards advancing gender equality and the empowerment of young people to make informed and responsible decisions about their relationships and sexuality.

Mr Padayachy assists young, homeless and jobless mothers with shelter, at his rented home, help in finding employment, and other necessities. He notes that he encounters many underage girls who are faced with hardships after being propelled into the responsibility of motherhood at a tender age.

“The majority of these mothers do not truly understand the repercussions of an underage pregnancy until things start falling apart. Some are rejected by their parents and after the fathers are long-gone, she is now unemployed, she might not have opted to further her education precisely because of lack of support so what does she do next?”.

“A lot of our young mothers are not only without support or jobless, but they are also hopeless that nobody understands their situation” Mr Padayachy asserts.

A young mother who wished to remain anonymous, and who is being assisted by Mr Padayachy recounts her experience of her first pregnancy, at the age of 16.

“Before my pregnancy, I led an active lifestyle, played a lot of sports and socialised with my friends. When I found out I was pregnant, I was lucky to have the support of my mother but the baby’s father cut me off. Neither him nor his family made any effort to be there for me or my child and it was hard, going through so many sudden changes” had she said.

She recalls that her social life ceased to exist and she was forced to find work shortly after giving birth to support her child. “It is a very difficult situation to be in. You are forced to step up since you are now a parent yourself, looking after a child, your child”.

“I’m not enthusiastic about making contraceptives available to young people as it might serve to encourage them to engage in sexual activities but improving sexuality education in schools is a good idea. The more informed someone is, they can act more responsibly” she asserts.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Council for Children (NCC) Jean Claude Matombe says the Council believes that sexual education has its importance within the curriculum and can equip children as well as teenagers with necessary skills pertaining to their sexuality.

 “It is even more important as a high number of children are getting involved in risky behaviors which makes them vulnerable towards teenage pregnancy. Therefore, the NCC is not against the Idea of a Comprehensive Sexuality Education program even at Primary level” Mr Matombe states. However, he notes that an evaluation of the current program in place must be carried out to identify errors and weaknesses as well as good practices to ensure the feasibility of a new program.

 “Furthermore, the content and delivery method should be up to date with today’s reality as well as the context and culture of Seychelles. Finally, the language of delivery should match the age levels of the primary students” Mr Matombe says.

 Considering the increasing rates of teenage pregnancy in Seychelles, is it time to revise the school curriculum and implement a CSE programme to effectively promote sexual health amongst our youth?

This article was written by Laura Pillay  . It is part of Gender Links #VoiceandChoice series. It was first published in the Seychelles Nation Newspaper.


One thought on “Seychelles: Addressing teenage pregnancies”

Lethokuhle says:

This is a critical intervention for young people

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