The youth have called on the government to include peer educators in Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) awareness programmes as young people could better listen to their peers’ advice than that of their elders.
The youngsters were speaking at the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries commitment dialogue hosted by the Ministry of Education, Skills and Development (MoESD) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) held at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone recently.
Cindy Sibanda, a Form 5 student at Naledi Senior Secondary School remarked that the youth do not take SRH issues seriously and have little or no knowledge of those issues.
“As young people we are either ignorant or lack knowledge in sexual reproductive issues. You would find out that in our age, we are mostly engaged in sexual immoralities and I feel that it is high time we stopped these sexual immoralities so as to eliminate new infections.
“Each year before we write our final examinations we have either three or four young people who write their exams while pregnant,” she said. Sibanda explained that through these pregnancies, young people feel that by the time they write their Form 5 exams they have reached the end of their childhood and have passed into adulthood, which gives them the right to engage in sex.
“This is because they feel that they are finishing school. It’s amazing how peer pressure still influences us. We need peer educators. If I have my own peer who advised me, I would listen to her than an elder, as I would feel that an adult would not understand what I am going through. We need positive peer pressure not negative,” Sibanda pointed out.
She emphasised that being told about consequences of engaging in sexual activities in early years by peers was better than being told by teachers or parents as it was not easy discussing such issues openly with the adults.
She also said that they were afraid of discussing sex with their parents, adding that they needed positive peer pressure to do that. She said there were students out there who encouraged others to get involved in sexual activities and not to use condoms, as they were barriers to getting sexual pleasure. She warned that the government’s efforts to eliminate infections and teenage pregnancies would not bear any fruits if something was not done.
She also called on the ministries to extend the guidance and counselling subject to more periods and days in a week as students needed to talk about their challenges pertaining to SRH.
For her part, the Minister of Health Dorcas Makgato said that they had indeed learnt a lot from the youth. She said speaking to the youth and learning their challenges and finding ways to address them was indeed a success.
“The involvement of youth in the design of packages that are for them is a key ingredient in ensuring implementation and eventually success of programmes that will benefit them.
“This commitment would change the realities of how millions of young people access the sexual and reproductive health information and services that they need to live healthy and empowered lives,” she said.