We read a lot about girls leaving school because of pregnancy. Young girls get pregnant before they are ready, before they finish school and are mature enough emotionally, physically and financially to start a family. The discourse is always about men preying on young girls. But what we are missing is the story of the girls’ own sexuality.
In all countries around the world people get sexually active around 17 years old (unless they are forcibly introduced to sex through harmful traditional practices or otherwise). Some earlier, some later. In our fast changing society, it is not desirable to start a family at that age, they should get a chance to finish their education and settle. So for some years, they will be sexually active, but not ready to start a family. They need to get through those years safely. That means they need information. About safe sex, about their bodies and emotions, and about family planning (contraception). Family planning starts before the family the family starts or the child will be there prematurely. We need to introduce sexual education including family planning in the school curriculum. Our sons and daughters need to information BEFORE they become sexually active. Since it is no exception to start sexual activities at 14 for early starters, they need the information at 13 years old. Unfortunately in Malawi school going does not start at a uniform age, and repetition of classes is not uncommon, so the age group in one class can be quite diverse. We need to start early, and include the information in the science curriculum. Samples of family planning methods need to be passed around in class so our daughters are familiar with them when they need them. And we need a sex positive approach: sex is beautiful when practiced between consenting people, who are ready for it, and informed about it. A hostile attitude to sex (“Abstinence Only” or withholding of information) does not help. Those countries with comprehensive sex education in their school curriculum like Denmark and Netherlands have very low rates of abortion, teenage pregnancy and defilement of school girls. We need that too.