This article is in continuation to the one titled, ‘Sex and the book’ that was published a few days before. The other day I received a message from a colleague asking me to suggest ways and means to impart sexuality education effectively. The letter threw light on the sorry state of affairs on her part of the country; I felt deeply hurt reading about the story of young girls committing suicide after having to compromise in what they imagined to be “bollywood kind of romance”. Maybe because I am a father of two little daughters and would like to see them grow up to be healthy, educated ladies who would be assets to the society or maybe because it is in my nature to sympathise with the victims when something unfortunate happen, I couldn’t control, but weep my heart out. Her message mentioned of young children, even as young as grade VIII students, experiencing inexplicable pressure after what could be termed us ‘unfortunate’ strikes them right in the heart.
In our country, there are lots of schools offering moral or value education to children up to the age of 15,and a few schools up to seventeen. And parents are under the impression that it covers sexuality education sufficiently which is not the case, to be precise. Thus it is imperative that teachers of all subjects do the needful in this regard starting from preprimary. Although there is no single method of imparting sexuality education that could be successful at all times, having thought of the letter aforementioned I suggest the following:
- AGE APPROPRIATE SEXUALITY EDUCATION
Question: At what age should the school start sexuality education?
Answer: At the earliest.
Some time back my daughter who was in the UKG came home and complained that a few boys from their class go into their washroom. I found it an opportunity to tell her, in terms she would grasp, about differences. I also spoke to her teacher who called the little boys and explained to them why it is bad manners to use girls’ washroom. No shouting. No punishments. No angry faces. The lesson was well imparted.
It’s best to make use of such opportunities to start talking about differences rather than walking into a primary class and start a lecture on the subject. Kids at that age are only curious to know the differences, not about complex human sexual behavior. So give them what they can take.
- HOW DO WE TALK ABOUT IT?
A twelve-thirteen year old student, today, knows that God doesn’t drop the baby in the womb directly, and he/she would like to know how God does this magic. Be honest. That’s the best gift you could give that child. I am of the opinion that it is in the best interest of the learner and the teacher to be of the same gender while discussing matters related to sexuality in small groups. Of course, in a class room setting the gender of the teacher may not matter much.
I have a firsthand experience of the benefit of adding humour to such discussions. Once talking to a group of grade twelve boys about sexuality I found that they were unwilling to bring out their doubts, and so I told them this story:
As part of a birth control programme, a group of health workers went to a tribal village, and taught the men there how to use a condom. They took sticks and wore condoms on them, to demonstrate.
Then they asked, ‘have you understood how it is used?’
And the men happily replied, ‘ yes, we have’.
The health educators went back happily, and came back a few months later only to see to their disappointment that the women in the village were pregnant again.
‘How could this be?’, they wondered.
They called a meeting of the men, and asked them:
‘You said you have understood the use, and now what happened?’
‘We all have been using them’, said the men.
‘You must be lying’, retorted the health workers.
‘Come with us’, demanded the men.
The health workers were astonished, but went with them. The men took them to their huts and showed them condoms wore on sticks and hung in front of every hut.
Well…this melted the ice and paved the way for a very fruitful further discussion on the subject. The story also throws light on the need to be accurate while talking about sexuality.
Don’t appear too serious while clarifying children’s doubts regarding sexuality. It is best catered in bits and pieces rather than long lectures at a go. Talk as if it is (and it actually is) very natural, and talking about it in the appropriate circle in the appropriate manner is the best thing they can do to stay focused on their dreams.
Shying away from talking about it would not only give the impression that there is something bad about it, but arise children’s’ curiosity to seek for answers elsewhere. Many a time it is a willing listener and a patient guide that our children need, and not a learned psychologist.
Still there is another way of imparting healthy sexuality education without directly talking about it if you are uncomfortable doing so: introduce good books on the subject and make sure children read them. If they approach you for further clarification, instead of sending them off saying, ‘I’m busy’, or ‘it’s not the right time’ help them. I would like to suggest a few books:
- The Red Book (for children between the ages of 10 and 14, TARSHI)
- The Blue Book (for children above 15, TARSHI)
- Readers digest guide to sex and love (for young adults)
- The Orange Book (it’s a resource book for teachers, TARSHI)
There are too many teachers who consider their work done once the lesson is over; well…if only they were a bit more approachable… if only they were a bit more willing to lend a patient ear… if only they were able to think out of the box to imagine that the boy/girl they shouted at in the class for not paying attention had something else troubling them other than mere laziness… would they have found a bleeding heart.
- HARVEST ON FEAR TO KEEP THEM SAFE.
You may not possibly agree with me on this one. This is my personal take on keeping children out of danger. I believe all emotions are good, including anger and fear. You do not play with a snake because you are afraid it would harm you; you do not play with fire for the same reason. Fear is in everyone. Let us harvest on fear, may be our means isn’t good, but our goal is right. Make very clear to children that they cannot take sexuality for granted, and that it has not only personal aspect, but also psychological, and social aspects.
The sociological aspects of human sexuality are very important. What is morally right in one society may not be so in another society. Thus people may ridicule what is unacceptable to them, in India it goes to the extent of individuals getting ostracized.
Furthermore, the potential danger lurking in the dark in the form of STDs cannot be neglected. And so is the possibility of the abuse of technological developments. And so is the danger of being ditched after ‘use’. Such possible ‘threats’ could be used to keep children out of danger.
- SCHOOL POLICY
Well… a lot of untoward incidents could be nipped in the bud if the school has a positive, working policy about sexuality education and matters related to relationships. Schools should organize workshops/seminars that would provide the right knowledge in addition to regular lessons on the subject. Instead of complaining about the lack of funds, schools should find resource persons in their own localities or NGOs that offer such sessions free of cost.
The suggestion that by appointing a trained counselor schools can solve problems arising from matters related to sexuality seem bizarre to me. How could one trained counselor help a school with a thousand or more children? Yes, their presence would be a great help for schools, but teachers cannot stay away from playing their roles in the healthy development of children.
A friend from Canada said that parents would consider something amiss if their children are not in to any relationship by the time they are 15 or 16. It is clearly not the case here, and it should not be. I have had the bitter experience of working in association with a so called international school that did not care about children falling in ‘affairs’. In one year they had as many as six suicide attempts. Some progressive educationalists might argue that it is against nature to stop them from being in relationships. My take on this is that they could be right, but we are more correct in that we are preventing future tragedies by discouraging children from inappropriate show of affection. Schools should be firm, but not arrogant to children. After all they are children.
Schools should insist on cultivating discipline in the class rooms, in the school campus, out in the society, and more than all in one self. That is what the father of our nation has opined. Schools should sensitize children about the existence of the cultural and gender barriers, and involve families in the process of a healthy sexuality education.
- TRANSMUTATION OF SEXUAL ENERGY
My book ‘You Are Becoming- A non negotiable manual for aspiring teens’ deals with this point in detail. Here are the links to the book:
I cannot, but sympathise with those who cling on to the view that animals do not attend sexuality education classes or that it is a waste of time. If only they could realize that human sexuality is way far different from that of the animal world, if only they could realize that families exist primarily owing to human sexuality, if only they could see that a lot of innocent children would have stayed focused on their dreams,( and made our nation proud)… had there been proper sexuality education.
I leave my case to your judgement…