Dangers of Entrusting Religious leaders with Sex Education Responsibility
By Aishat M. Abisola
I read that a few weeks ago that the federal government ordered the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) to remove sex education from the basic school curriculum. This decision was made by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
This followed the call by experts that sex education should be placed in the hands of parents and religious institutions so that it would not be taught in schools, in ways that would not further “corrupt” young children who have phones and access to technology.
Adamu stated that since Nigeria is a religious country, morals and values should be taught in Mosques and Churches, adding that it would bring up children with strong morals and reduce the rate of out-of-school-children.
When I read this, I was shocked for many reasons. First of all, the introduction of sex education in to the basic education curriculum is still a recent thing and most schools are not even implementing it.
When I was in secondary school, my classmates and I were mainly taught about the biological and chemical aspects of reproduction, not the aspects concerning sex and sexuality. Secondly, how are they sure that sex education has not been beneficial to the youths who are barely being taught about it in schools?
Sex education can be defined as teaching and learning about a myriad of topics that are related to sex and sexuality. It dives into the values and beliefs regarding these topics and helps people gain skills that they will need in order to navigate their relationships with themselves, their partners, their community and helps them manage their sexual health.
Sex education can be taught anywhere such as in one’s house, at school, in a community setting with trusted individuals, or online. As I stated earlier, I was not taught much about sex education in secondary school.
Luckily for me, my parents were there to answer any questions that I had on sexual education and even imparted a lot of useful knowledge that has helped me a lot in many ways. When I learnt more about sex education and focused on what my parents taught me, I was able to learn more about myself, my body and how I could improve in terms of both mental and physical health.
Despite common misconceptions that sex education corrupts children when they are taught about it at school, sex education can be more beneficial than you might expect. The full description of sex education entails is:
This involves human anatomy, puberty and how it will affect them both physically and mentally, sexual orientation (the different types of sexual orientations) and gender identity (what it means to be male or female).
Relationships consists of Interpersonal relationships such as Family, Friendships, Romantic relationships, and their relationship with healthcare practitioners
This involves areas surrounding communication, boundaries, negotiations and decision making.
Sexual education covers the areas that deal with sexual health like sexually transmitted diseases, Birth Control and pregnancy
Society and culture
This involves Media Literacy, Shame and stigmatisation that is associated with sex and sexual education, the way that power, identity and oppression can affect sexual wellness and reproductive freedom.
But besides all this, my main concern is how sex education is so callously put in the hands of religious leaders and institutions. Most parents can be trusted with imparting the bit of knowledge that they know about sex education to their children in order for them to be more aware and careful.
Religious leaders and religious institutions, on the other hand, cannot be trusted in the same way.
Historically, and in recent times, both religious leaders and religious institutions have been known to use children’s lack of sexual knowledge against them in ways most foul.
Priests, pastors and Imams have preyed on young children who were entrusted to them by unsuspecting parents.
The more commonly known religious institution to do so are the Catholics, but other religious institutions and there leaders have done the same as well.
In some Islamiyah’s (Islamic religious learning academies), Imams have inappropriately touched young children who they were supposed to take care of. Some examples would be of a French Catholic church that was reported after it was discovered that its clergy and lay members had sexually abused at least 330,000 children over the past 70 years.
Another example would be a young girl from Lagos who was sexually abused by a Friar at her parish church. In 2020, an Imam had taped himself raping a five year old girl and earlier this year in July, another Imam was arrested for the sexual abuse of seven children.
In October of this year, another Imam was arrested for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old. Men (Women as well), who are placed into positions of power are more often than not predators who seek to prey on those weaker than them.
These days, anyone can become an Imam or a pastor. Because of the relaxed nature in discerning as to whether or not someone is an actual man/woman of god or whether they can be trustworthy in a position of power, many people get hurt.
Young children should not be placed in their care nor should they be allowed to discuss sex education with them.
For all we know, they could teach these young and highly impressionable children things that are incorrect and could hurt them badly in the long run.
Statistics have shown that when children have been sexually abused, there is a high likelihood that they will go on to commit the same injustices that were performed on them.
In the end, it will just perpetuate a cycle of pain and torment.
Appropriately trained sexual education professionals should be tasked with training children on what they need to know about sex education from a young age. This way they will learn more about their bodies and the best way to know if what is being done to them is right or wrong.
Along with this, children should also be taken care of by their community.
If more than one eye is trained on a child, then any sort of odd behaviour will be noted and told to their parents so that they can take the proper actions necessary.
With these two in hand, there won’t be a need for parents to rely on religious leaders or religious institutions to teach children about sex education when children are more likely to abused by them. Perhaps then, the government will have more trust in the education system instead of leaving such a delicate and complicated matter in the hands of people who would rather make matters worse than fix anything.
Children are blank canvasses and teaching them the right things will make lovely and ethereal colours glow on their canvass, but teaching them in the wrong manner will damage it.
Children are the hopes and future of their parents and forefathers; It is with them that a legacy of peace, faith and kindness is ensured.
I hope that whoever is reading this takes my words to heart and acts righteously by these children who might be led astray due to improperly placed trust.
*Aishat M. Abisola is a member of the Society for Health Communication Wuye District, Abuja