South Africa school children say no to condoms – UN study

By RS Writer

School children in South Africa, unlike their Kenyan counterparts have said no to condoms in a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The 12 year-olds say condoms in schools will increase sexual activity and hurt academic performance.

“Well with the condoms in schools, the teenagers will think about sex … Yes it is wrong, because they will do it every weekend, even in school they will do it, they won’t focus on schoolwork, they will focus on having sex.” – Male learner, Free State.

This is the general tenor of the study published yesterday (Tuesday16th) and carried out and funded by UNICEF- South Africa.

But the opinions of the children seem not to be counting for much as the South African Department of Basic Education moves to rollout the distribution of condoms and other reproductive heaths services in schools.

The study comes out at a time Kenya is still debating a recent study by American NGOs which claimed local school children are dying to get condoms.

The South African study led by W. E. de Bruin of VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands interviewed pupils from 33 public schools to assess their attitudes, needs and desires regarding provision of condoms.

“The majority of learners did not support condom provision in schools as they feared that it may increase sexual activity and hurt academic performance,” says the study published in the journal Aids Care.

The study was carried out among secondary school learners aged 12 and above recruited through UNICEF’s programmes in South Africa.

Some of the learners who supported stocking of condoms in schools were of the opinion that the products were important for other learners but not themselves.

Other learners said they may not feel confident taking condoms from school sources due to fear of gossip and judgmental attitudes of peers and teachers.

Consequently some pupils suggested that if condoms are to be brought to schools they should be made available in the toilets while others recommended controlled access via school staff.

For condoms to be accepted in SA schools, the study recommends strong advocacy campaigns that debunk myths about their availability in schools.

“Success of the intervention in SA could pave the way for similar programmes for young people across the region,” suggests the study.

A similar study among Kenyans teenagers published last month showed children aged between 15 and 17 can’t wait to get their hands on condoms and other contraceptives.

The study which also featured prominently in the South African media has created a buzz locally with most respondents saying they want to be taught how to use contraceptives including condoms, oral pills and injectables.

The researcher by US Guttmacher Institute and the Nairobi based African Population Health Research Center said only two out of every 10 interviewed, in a sample of  2,484 teenagers knew anything about contraceptive methods.

Only one out of 10 said they knew how to use contraceptives, along with less than two out of 10 said they knew where to find them.

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