Mabingue Ngom

By Halimatou Ceesay

The regional director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for West and Central Africa, Mabingue Ngom, Tuesday presided over the launching of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in the Gambia.

The two-day validation of the draft CSE held at the Regional Education Directorate in Kanifing brought together stakeholders in the education sector and other institutions.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Ngom said in recognition of government’s commitment to the sexual and reproductive health of young people, the UNFPA has agreed to support the process of putting in place effective mechanisms in schools of all categories for enhancing a comprehensive sexuality education program.

He added: “UNFPA engagements in this venture began in June 2017 when an international consultant was hired by the agency to work with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School to develop a comprehensive sexuality education programme. The aim of the programme is to prepare children at an early age for their reproductive roles and raise their awareness on negative consequences of early Marriage, Gender based violence, in general and FGM in particular.

Mr Ngom said the validation of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum for the Gambian educational system is an important achievement in the partnership between the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

He added that the CSE curriculum is a reference document which will guide the teaching of cross-cutting issues in order to equip general and young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that will enable them to develop a positive view of their sexuality in the context of their emotional and social development.

He reiterated his organisation’s commitment to provide all possible support to ensure that the country maximally harness the demographic dividend of the youthful population of the country.

Mr Ngom added: “Just as has been proven effective in other African countries, the Gambia should also embark on the development of a National Campaign Strategy called “Zero tolerance for early pregnancy in schools.” This national campaign will serve as a framework for the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education, the social mobilization of all the stakeholders, advocacy groups, the community (parents, traditional and religious leaders, communicators) and the social media for the creation of an enabling social environment which will contribute to the reduction of early pregnancies in schools.”

Claudiana Cole, minister for Basic and Secondary Education said her ministry is of the view that for the children to be fully prepared to be able to overcome the numerous emerging societal and cultural challenges ahead, they must be provided with the requisite knowledge and skills to enable them successfully cope with those challenges.

She said she is fully aware that the comprehensive sexuality education curriculum framework they are about to validate in the next two days has attempted to provide a solid foundation for children and youth to acquire the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes to address these challenges.

She added that the challenges include high population growth rate, early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, illegal abortion, high infant and maternal mortality rates, sexually transmitted infections, drug abuse and environmental degradation.

Saikou Trawally, director of National Population Secretariat said the CSE curriculum framework will further strengthen government’s stance on empowering the young people by giving them the requisite information, skills and services to foster a more meaningful livelihood.

He added that the Gambia government has abundantly expressed in its various development policies and programmes, the wiliness to uphold the right of adolescents and youth to access information and services.”

He added: “Comprehensive sexuality education programs are generally premised on the idea that young people have the right to be informed about their sexuality, to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and have self-esteem. It is also perceived that with this kind of initiatives, women and families in the long run will voluntarily decide the size, spacing and timing of their children.”