IMPORTANCE OF COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

Emitomo Tobi Nimisire
6 min readSep 28, 2020

When the first season of Sex Education premiered on Netflix in 2019, it had over 40 million viewers who were entertained into acknowledging the struggles puberty hands to adolescents as they juggle getting accustomed to their body changes, sexual attraction and desires, and responsibilities associated with this phase.

Each episode explores the length of human sexuality and importance of sex education — from contraceptive use and safe abortion to relationships, barely leaving anything out.

Regardless of the country or region they are viewing from, every person sees themselves in these teenagers; recognizes the naivety, curiosity, desire, cluelessness, and internal conflict. This TV show reiterated a clear message: Young people need Sex Education, and more importantly, from the right source.

Regardless of the country or region they are viewing from, every person sees themselves in these teenagers; recognizes the naivety, curiosity, desire, cluelessness, and internal conflict. This TV show reiterated a clear message: Young people need Sex Education, and more importantly, from the right source.

Unlike Otis who was equipped with sex education by his mother as he transitioned into adolescence in the show, many adolescents in Nigeria do not have parents who concern themselves with their children’s sexual lives by being readily available to sate their curiosity or ease their anxieties. This leaves these adolescents conflicted, unable to reconcile knowledge of what they have been told their body shouldn’t do to what it wants to do. They resort to consuming pornographic materials, facilitating their early sexual debut which is associated with risky sexual behaviors that follow them into adulthood.

To capture first-hand experiences of young Nigerians, I asked four people about their introduction to sex education and what they thought of it.

What Four Nigerians had to say about their First Sex Education Experiences

Busayo, Male, 26

I was 15 when I self-taught myself sex education. I was internet-savvy then, so I learnt online. But, I wish I learnt this from my mother instead. I think sex education is important because it demystifies sex and provides people with facts on what sexuality entails.

Ife, Female, 21

The first sex education I ever had was delivered by my teacher when I was 10 years old, and it was basically about menstruation, nothing else. Even my mother did not educate me on menstruation, not to talk of sex. She only found out I had begun menstruation 6 months after my menarche. I believe sex education is important because it prepares us to make informed decisions; if I had all the information I have about sex now then, I probably would have started having sex much later than I did.

I believe sex education is important because it prepares us to make informed decisions; if I had all the information I have about sex now then, I probably would have started having sex much later than I did.

Tosin, Male, 26

I did not get any formal or official introduction to sex education. The first time my brother had a wet dream, my father gave him a long talk on what it meant, so I did not bother to tell him when I had mine. I was about 13, in Junior secondary school when I began to stumble on information on sex in newspapers and from my older male friends. I deem sex education quite important and think it should commence for children as early as possible.

Damilola, Female, 18

I was never taught sex education because it was abominable talking about sex at home. Everything I know about sex and sexual health, I found on the internet and from movies when I was 16. A large number of issues we have in the society today are because most people are uninformed about sex. A lot of people are walking around with STDs without even knowing it. There are many children who do not know they are being sexually violated, and those who end up with unintended pregnancies. Women are sexually frustrated and unhappy because they are unsatisfied by their partners and do not know how to pleasure themselves. On a scale of 1–10, the importance of Sex Education is 9.

A large number of issues we have in the society today are because most people are uninformed about sex. A lot of people are walking around with STDs without even knowing it.

What is Comprehensive Sexuality Education?

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is an education that seeks to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need to determine and enjoy their sexuality — physically and emotionally, individually and in relationships. It views sexuality holistically, as a part of young people’s emotional and social development ( Guttmacher Institute).

Young people need more than the conventional sex education focused on abstinence and contraception, hence the importance of CSE. CSE is a more effective substitute that provides young people with age-appropriate and scientifically accurate information on a broad range of issues relating to all aspects of sexuality including puberty, reproduction, abstinence, contraception, relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education ought to be part of education programs in all schools and provided to out-of-school children in safe spaces, but most Nigerian educational institutions do not include it in their programs, leaving Civil Society Organizations working on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Advocacy to shoulder the responsibility of teaching young people CSE. One of such organizations is Findmymethod.org, which provides information on contraceptive use to young people from anywhere in the world.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education ought to be part of education programs in all schools and provided to out-of-school children in safe spaces, but most Nigerian educational institutions do not include it in their programs, leaving Civil Society Organizations working on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Advocacy to shoulder the responsibility of teaching young people CSE.

Why is Comprehensive Sexuality Education Important?

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) empowers young people to make healthy decisions as regards their sexuality and relationships, because it provides them with information on the biological, socio-cultural, and psychological dimensions of sexuality and empowers them with communication, decision-making, and critical-thinking skills that enable them to recognize and avoid unhealthy sexual relationships.

Without adequate information on how to handle matters relating to sex and relationships, young people are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, sexual exploitation, harassment, violence, and unhealthy relationships, which in turn affect their general wellbeing.

Without adequate information on how to handle matters relating to sex and relationships, young people are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, sexual exploitation, harassment, violence, and unhealthy relationships, which in turn affect their general wellbeing.

Similarly, CSE teaches young people bodily autonomy, which keeps them grounded in their decisions on what happens to their body, helps them know when and how to reject unwanted sexual advances, and respect other people’s bodily autonomy. This prevents them from having unpleasant sexual experiences.

Barriers to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria

The major barriers to both Conventional Sex Education and Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Nigeria are Purity Culture and Misconceptions that sex education encourages early integration into sexual activities and promiscuity.

Purity culture is imbibed in Nigerians from childhood, by conservative parents, guardians and family members — via sermons, during assembly in schools, and even by healthcare workers in hospitals adolescents visit for Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH) services.

These barriers influence the Nigerian Government’s reluctance to prioritize sexual and reproductive health of young people, stalling the implementation of policies that necessitate inclusion of CSE in educational programs and training of healthcare providers to deliver nonjudgmental and youth-friendly services.

The sexual and reproductive health of adolescents is not a mere private matter, the Nigerian Government needs to reassess its priorities and make it its business that young people have adequate information that will facilitate healthy sexual lives and relationships. Parents and guardians must take on the responsibility of teaching their children and wards sex education, as they are their first point of learning.

Originally published at http://nimisire.wordpress.com on September 29, 2020.

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Emitomo Tobi Nimisire

Writer, SRHR Consultant, Communications Strategist, and Feminist Researcher. Older work can be experienced at www.nimisire.wordpress.com.