Sex education set to become part of school curriculum
It’s official. Sex education is set to become a part of the country’s school curriculum. The programme will be rolled out by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself this Saturday at Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, under Ayushman Bharat, a national health protection scheme.
The “role play and activity based” module, titled School Health Programme, will be imparted in government schools across the country with the help of specially trained teachers and peer educators (selected school students).
The module will address various aspects of growing up including sexual and reproductive health, sexual abuse, good touch and bad touch, nutrition, mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, non-communicable diseases, injuries and violence and substance abuse in an age-appropriate manner. The 22-hour programme is a joint initiative by the Union health ministry and the ministry of human resource development and is expected to benefit 26 crore adolescents.
“Instructions have been given to dedicate one period a week for the programme,” said a senior health ministry official. “The module will cover important aspects related to adolescence in an age-appropriate manner,” said the official.
Bijapur, where the programme will be officially launched by Modi, is one among the 115 ‘aspirational districts’ from across the country, identified by the government for development under the aspirational districts scheme. Under this, the government intends to transform these districts through real-time monitoring and various welfare schemes. (Incidentally, Modi will also be the first prime minister to visit Bijapur, one of the most backward regions of the country but has started doing well on various development parameters.) “We will focus on students from class IX to XII in the first phase and eventually extend it to cover all school-going children from class I onwards. All the programmes will be role play and activity-based,” said the health ministry official.
The health ministry believes the manner in which the programme is conducted is as important as its content. “It is important how we tell them. Two teachers from each school will be selected for this purpose and trained by the education department. The ownership of the programme is with the education department, because it’s they who are going to implement it. Our health ministry officials will provide them with all the technical support,” said the official.
Attempts to introduce activity-based adolescent education programme in schools had courted controversy in the past.
A Rajya Sabha committee chaired by the then BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu (now vice-president) had rubbished an activity-based comprehensive Adolescent Education Programme (AEP) launched by the union education ministry in 2005 “as a cleverly used euphemism whose real objective was to impart sex education in schools and promote promiscuity.” It said, there is “no justification” or need to teach HIV/AIDS to schoolchildren in the 14-18 age group, sex education “incites stimulation of instincts which is detrimental to society”, basic human “instincts like food, fear, greed, coitus, etc, need not be taught, rather control of these should be the subject of education”.
Ayushman Bharat, which covers over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families have twin missions. First, creating a network of health and wellness centres to deliver comprehensive primary healthcare close to the community, and second, providing insurance cover to 40 per cent of India’s population that is most deprived, for secondary and tertiary care including for instance, hospitalisation costs.