Study says young people need sexual education
Sexual education should be brought into the classroom to overcome the “unmet” need among Samoa’s youth for knowledge about reproductive health, the Samoa Bureau of Statistics says.
The advice is contained within a policy brief: “Samoa Youth Monograph 2020, Family Life Education: A strategic pathway to accelerate sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents and youth in Samoa”.
The report notes considerable challenges to giving young people access to sexual and reproductive health education, despite the country seeking to improve education levels.
“The unmet need for [sexual and reproductive health] services for adolescent females, for example, aged 15 to 19 could be as high as 50 per cent,” the report reads.
Making the S.R.H. services accessible is not the only goal, though; the report says changing previous approaches could stimulate a positive change.
Otherwise, through supportive and legislative initiatives to improve reproductive health, Samoa has led to a significant drop in child mortality rates since the turn of the century. The current child mortality rate is at a low of 15 deaths per 1,000 live births; the death of children below five has reduced to 19 per 1,000 live births.
The prevalence of H.I.V. (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) also remains low in Samoa with only 23 cases ever detected, the report reads.
The Samoa Global Aids Monitoring Report 2018, found a “strong” stigma remains around the use of sexual health services by young people, something the report attributes to religious belief and social pressure.
This stigma is linked to a decreased likelihood in the use of contraception and rising rates of H.I.V., the report said.
The report revealed a huge gap between knowing about safe sex and practices between groups of young people in Samoa.
“There is a high level awareness about contraceptive methods – 76.1 per cent for 15 to 19-year-olds and 90.4 per cent for 20 to 24-year-olds,” it reads.
“In spite [of] this, only 0.8 per cent of females and 8.6 per cent of males aged 15 to 19 years and 17.6 per cent of females and 22.1 per cent of males aged 20 to 24 years ever use contraception.”
In efforts to overcome the social and religious taboos around sexual health, the report recommends content about sexual health be incorporated into the education system.
“For in-school adolescents and youth, the scope and content of Family Life Education could be strengthened within the existing Health and Physical Education (H.P.E.) curriculum,” the report reads.
“[This could] ensure universal access [to] education sessions for out-of-school adolescents and youth [and] could be delivered at the community level.”
This comes after the Minister of Education, Loau Keneti Sio shut down the idea of safe sex education in schools two years ago saying it will not be an option for the education curriculum in Samoa.
“That is absurd,” the Minister said. “That issue should be addressed in families, not in the classroom and for the life of me, we will not allow that.”
The report also recommends that young people be consulted as part of the design process for developing future programmes and policies on the issue. Doing so would make interventions on sexual health more effective, the report found.
The delivery of education on such issues needs to be moulded by health workers and teachers to be appealing to young people and account for their emotional reactions to the concepts of choice and reproductive health.
In comparison with the region, the report noted that there is a “high” prevalence of risky sexual behaviour among adolescents and youth in Samoa.
Nearly three-in-five or 57 per cent of adolescents aged 13 to 16 years have had sexual encounters with about two-in-five or 44 per cent not using any method of birth control. Approximately seven-in-ten or 73.4 per cent are engaging in risky sexual behaviour, a Global School-Based Health Survey estimated.
There has also been an overall recorded increase in the rate of sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.), especially among those aged 25 or younger. Chlamydia is most prevalent among youth, with 40.7 per cent of 15 to 24-year olds infected.
It is also estimated that many adolescents and young people are exposed to risks of gender-based violence.
“Samoa’s prevalence of [gender based violence is], notably higher than the global average of lifetime prevalence of violence, against women and girls at 35 per cent,” the report concluded.
“Young women [...are] disproportionately affected by sexual violence.”