It is with grave concern that we read recent articles in the media detailing government’s decision to commence with a programme to distribute condoms to learners in South African schools. We are left wondering whether any time was spent investigating the root causes of teenagers becoming sexually active and falling pregnant before such a decision was reached. Were educators, learners and organizations who work with our country’s youth consulted in the decision making process? Was their collective knowledge, findings and experience taken into consideration, or were profitable contracts for the manufacture and supply of condoms perhaps given greater attention and a ‘quick-fix’ solution applied?
Despite our organization and many other interested parties having expressed their belief that this move will only serve to increase the already high rate of HIV infections and teenage pregnancies by encouraging sexual activity, and despite education officials having expressed their belief that such action would be inappropriate, it seems that this project has already been given the green light.
Could the funds allocated to a project such as this not be better used to address outstanding issues such as the shortage of text books in our country’s schools? As many learners in our country are suffering from malnutrition and do not even have classrooms or ablution facilities available to them, we strongly feel that these funds could be more wisely allocated.
The distribution of condoms to learners sends out the message that sexual activity among children is condoned. CYPSA agrees with the predominant belief among those who actually work in a ‘hands-on’ capacity with our children, that abstinence should be the focus of efforts to address the high rate of teenage pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among learners, and that it is the only solution to this problem.
Some years back raising children was not part of the responsibilities of school going children. Since the government allocated grants for every baby born, it has become a temptation for school aged girls to fall pregnant in order to ‘earn an income’. For some who come from poor homes, the temptation of several hundred rand a month is simply too great, and as we know the youth seldom take the long-term effects of the decisions they make into consideration before making them and see only the immediate ‘benefits’ of the choices they make.
These temptations are only reinforced by the current lack of disciplinary action taken against those girls who fall pregnant while in school and the young men who are responsible. There was a time when young girls feared falling pregnant, and rightly so.
We must return to the point of logical and responsible reasoning before reaching the decision to go ahead with projects such as this one, as encouraging sexual activity among our youth will lead to the destruction of their futures, hopes and dreams. There are better ways to address an issue like this one, measures that will reap far better results.