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Should contraceptives be introduced in schools?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The controversial debate regarding the distribution of contraceptives, primarily condoms, in Jamaica's secondary schools continues to rage on, with teachers sharing mixed views on the topic. Last week the Sunday Observer posed the question ' should contraceptives be introduced in schools?' to educators attending a special forum at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston.

Lenworth Sterling — Principal, Ferncourt High School

"I don't think that it should be done. I think our guidance counsellors have in their programmes the whole matter of abstinence and that is what we are pushing right now. I don't think the schools should be asked to do that."

Valentine Bailey — Principal, Camperdown High School

"On one hand I don't think that the schools should have that kind of authority to give a person's child condoms. I think that is a parental decision. It should be solely a parental decision because of what is happening now; the whole sexual freedom and the belief that once they are 16, especially girls, they are free to do whatever. You giving them condoms may be seen as a signal to say 'alright, indulge but just protect yourself'. One of the things we keep missing is that the act itself brings a whole heap of psychological problems, it sends a bad signal to that child. On the other hand, I can understand the rationale for doing it because I think the school system is saying 'well they (students) are doing it so we have to ensure that they protect themselves.' But, if I have to lean to a side, I believe that it should be a parental decision.

Dorrett Campbell — Deputy Chief Education officer, Ministry of Education

"The argument posited that students are having sex anyway so we should not turn a blind eye and that we should give them condoms. My counter to that is that if you give them condoms they will still have unprotected sex. The majority of our Jamaican populace, based on research, does not practice the wearing of condoms. School is to create an environment to turn out the ideal Jamaican citizen who is socially adjusted, productive, and who can function in a global society. In doing that, I do not see the need to create the environment to disseminate condoms. It is not a family planning centre; it's a school to educate children on how to be responsible. And although it is responsible behaviour to wear condoms, it is also responsible behaviour to abstain from sex until you can deal with the consequences of sex, and that is the message that I want them (students) to get."

Dr Winsome Gordon — Chief Executive Officer, Jamaica Teaching Council

"I don't think so. As far as I am concerned, that is not the role of the school. Parents have their children, they are suppose to discuss sexuality, sexual relations and intercourse with their children. They (parents) are the ones to take a decision to give the child or give the children contraceptives and to ensure that their children are safe. That is a parental responsibility, it is not a responsibility that I would like to give to an education system. There are other things that the education system should do like teaching children to value themselves, to value and respect their bodies, and teaching them to have healthy relationships that do not have to be sexual relationships. Those are things we can do as educators, but certainly not to distribute contraceptives."

George Dawkins — Research director, Shortwood Teachers' College

"Whether we like it or not, inspite of our moral views on the matter, the students are having sex at a very early age and that's a reality, based on the evidence. It would seem to be sensible, if we want to minimise teenage pregnancy, that this should be done. However, the communication with regards to its use and sexual activity should be clearly articulated to say that you should not be engaged in this activity because of the distractions and the fact that you are not physically and psychologically ready, but in the event that you want to engage then this is something that will protect you. So its more a pragmatic point of view. There is another view point that it will encourage or promote sexual activity and perhaps increase the number of incidents of such occurence. That is something that I don't know about it, we would have to do the research to see if that is actually happening. But I would lead towards the provision of condoms with appropriate counselling and appropriate articulation of its purpose within the educational system."

Leo Dacosta — Vice Principal, Ocho Rios High School

"As I teach my students; sex comes with responsiblity and therefore you are a student in school and ought not to be having sex. But I cannot see myself giving them condoms because giving someone condoms is saying 'protect yourself whilst you have sex'. So I see mixed signals being sent, and for schools, our responsibility is to teach according to what we expect. We are saying sex is to be delayed, students should wait and focus on what you should be accomplishing now in this stage of your development. Now, I am all for contraceptive methods, but if you are going to be issuing condoms we are sending mixed signals. Issue them at the tertiary level but not at the secondary level."

Leroy McKenzie — Vice Principal, Dunoon Technical High School

"My view is simply that it is a good thing. No matter how we try the students we have are coming from a background of society, an environment that allows for promiscuity so the school is no different from the environment so therefore distribution of condoms in schools should be done. Because they (students) know it, and since they are getting involved, that's one of the things we can use to try to minimise teenage pregnancy right now."

Ovnelle Smith — teacher Donald Quarrie High School

"Teachers, educators should not distribute contraceptive in schools, but we should continue to educate the children in sex education classes as to how to deal with their sexuality. Education is important in that if we just distribute contraceptive we would be encouraging the children to get sexually involved and we know that there are many factors which are negative that come with being involved sexually. Our experience tells us that they are unable to manage it and most of the times those who are involved get themselves into deeper trouble. So I believe that teachers should continue to teach students in their health and family life classes about how to control those feelings and urgings for sex."

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