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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Even the kids know that it is wrong

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea" Mark 9:42, Revised Standard Version.


I rarely print news reports here (as opposed to opinion or analytical pieces), but I'm making an exception for this article from CBCP News:

Children irked by sex ed in school

MANILA, April 29, 2011―A group of elementary students has reacted negatively to a lesson on sex education given them by volunteer teachers, highlighting the risks and unsuitability of the inclusion of the proposed program in the curriculum.

As part of a lesson on human sexuality, 10-year-old students from a public school were shown graphic images of what may happen as a result of engaging in sex.

Some of them were visibly disturbed by what they had seen, according to Chet Capati, a volunteer teacher who supervised the Reading Enhancement and Academic Program (REAP) – an apostolic project for public grade school students at the time of the 2010 incident.

"I saw the betrayed and pained look on my Saturday students as they related what happened a few days [after], when they received what was supposedly an eye-opener talk on sexuality. They were shown pictures of private parts of people with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)," said Capati, who saw the children weekly as part of a reading enrichment program.

The incident demonstrated what child development specialists, concerned parents and family advocates have emphasized regarding the dangers and unsuitability of including the government's proposed sex education program in the regular curriculum of the country’s elementary and high schools.

“These girls were very close to us and candid about anything they wanted to say. After the usual pleasantries and while waiting for the rest to arrive on that Saturday morning, one girl just blurted out, ‘Ate, ang bastos po,’ (It’s so indecent)” the volunteer teacher recalled. ‘Opo, Ate, ang bastos po nung tinuro sa amin,’ (Yes, what was taught to us was so indecent) another girl said,” according to Capati.

“I asked, ‘Anong bastos? (What’s indecent?)’ ‘Yung pinakita nila sa amin, Ate, (What they showed us)” replied the little girl, referring to the images of private parts of STD-afflicted persons.

The students added that they had wanted to shout to the facilitators to stop showing the pictures because the boys in the class had started to laugh.

“Pati po yung nagtuturo, tumatawa po sila, (Even the people teaching us were laughing)” the little girl described to Capati.

The facilitators who handled the lesson were college students from a private school who were giving modules on Hygiene as part of their project for a psychology class.

“The little girls had wanted to tell their teacher about the incident, but hesitated in the end because they were shy and probably thought they had no right to do so,” Capati said. “And I guess they weren’t that candid with their teachers or advisers.”

Capati expressed misgivings about the kind of messages that sex education in schools may send to students, who expectedly differ in level of maturity, personality, family background, and personal experiences.

“Yes, it’s important to get points across but always in the context of the sacredness of sexuality and not at the expense of students, whose concept of right and wrong is mercilessly distorted by so-called ‘education,’” she pointed out.

As a way to process the experience, Capati brought up the more crucial points involved.

“I had to ask them, ‘When is the right time for sex?’ To my surprise, what stuck to their young minds was the ‘Ang bastos po, Ate.’ To my question they gave all sorts of answers ranging from “sa mga mag-boyfriend (those in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships)” to “mga matanda na (the adults).” Only one answered “sa mag-asawa (the married ones).’”

“Here is a first-hand account of the possible damage this could do to our young people,” Capati said.

Proponents of The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011 (House Bill 4244) or the RH Bill, have been contending with growing opposition, partly due to the six-year mandatory sex education program it proposes to carry out in public and private schools nationwide, from Grade 5 to 4th year high school. Also included in the recipients are out-of-school youth and enrollees in the Alternative Learning System (Sec. 16. Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education).

Among the many groups that have been strongly opposing the measure is Families Against the RH Bill, which started out as a Manila-based organization of families but has quickly expanded to having chapters nationwide.

Chet Espino, one of the group’s convenors said “mandatory sex education is among the main points of [the] group’s manifesto against the RH Bill.”

“Parents are the primary educators of their children. This unfortunate incident you mentioned is only an example of the risks involved in allowing untrained school teachers to teach sex education to their students,” he said in reaction to Capati’s story.

“The children will grow up with a negative idea of sex, which is sacred and beautiful because it is a precious gift from God. [Sex] is not evil as these 10-year-olds now probably think. It is the parents we must educate so that they in turn may teach their children properly about sex,” he added.

After her experience with the 10-year-old students, Capati was concerned that they might develop “extreme ways of thinking, such as sex being bad, or sex being good regardless of context.

She brought the incident to the attention of the girls’ teacher as well as that of the psychology students’ school director. They were both receptive to her feedback.

“So this is a first-hand experience of yours that sex education [carried out in a school setting] is not good,” one of them said.

The RH Bill, authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District), includes a P3 billion proposed annual budget for its implementation should it be enacted into law. Plenary debates on the measure continue in the Lower House after sessions resume on May 9. (Diana S. Uichanco)

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