On 27 May 2020, UNESCO and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) jointly organized a virtual meeting on the progress, challenges and the way forward of Comprehensive Life Skills Education (CLSE) in Ethiopia. Under the chair role of the Ministry of Health, 18 participants representing UN agencies and International Non-Governmental Organizations participated in the discussion. Participants discussed and reached consensus on issues regarding facts, challenges, partnership of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) implementation and came up with recommendations to support CSE. The chairperson, Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Director of Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Directorate of the Ministry of Health, made concluding remarks and indicated way forward.
Discussion and Agreement on CSE Following UNESCO Presentation
UNESCO Education team briefly presented the conceptual and curricular relevance of CSE together with the challenges to mainstream CSE into the education reform process, of which unfounded allegations against the CSE promotion efforts played a major role. Participants discussed and agreed on several key justifying points following the presentation.
First, participants agreed that, CSE, as part of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda, could be a good platform to introduce and internalize the morals and ethics that youth needed to have for their personal development. The best means agreed to reach the youth population in the education sector with information on how to protect themselves from early sexual debut, unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancy, and their consequences, was to deliver well-crafted curriculum. In addition to the curriculum, multi-sectoral collaboration should be strengthened to respond to the multi-faceted concerns of youth and the multi-dimensional nature of CSE. Moreover, the power of information must be widely recognized. Apart from the education sector, parents together with the whole society should also be responsible to shape the young generation with scientific and accurate information within the cultural context of Ethiopia. Second, opposition movements on safe and post abortion, contraception, immunization services and CSE had been mounting, which resulted in untoward effects on the health of women and girls. Lastly, it was widely acknowledged by the participants that UN agencies were only providing technical support when necessary rather than preparing the CSE curriculum on behalf of the government.
Recommendations from Participants on CSE
The importance of addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) in general and particularly in school curriculum should be strongly advocated. In order to minimize confusion among partners and standardize the SRH education being delivered through different approaches, special terms and national guidelines on CSE management were recommended to be defined and clarified. Since education and information played a vital role in sustaining a good health system, it was highly recommended that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education collaborated closely to ensure the provision of accurate health information and education to youth. Additionally, the technical support from partners should be highly valued to provide scientifically and culturally appropriate CSE. As for the opposition movements against CSE and SRH, concerted efforts from every partner through multispectral responses were called for to mitigate the impacts.
Dr. Meseret Zelalem’s Concluding Remarks on the Way Forward
Dr. Zelalem mentioned that the Ministry of Health understood the extra pressure youth had been facing to access SRH services during the COVID-19 pandemic and would exert all efforts to ensure the continuity of such services. She indicated that the Ministry of Health was trying to introduce different options to provide services, such as self-care model recommended by World Health Organization (WHO), for which a guideline would be adapted and introduced in the coming weeks.
“The team should continue the effort of addressing confusion towards the nomenclature ‘CSE’ as well as each and every concept that might be against the culture and the law of the country.” Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Director of Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Directorate of the Ministry of Health
Dr. Zelalem expressed the determination to continue monitoring and strengthening health services for women, youth, children and all as this had been the core mandate of the Ministry. However, regarding prevention, education and empowerment, she encouraged intervention and collaboration from different ministries. Last but not least, she encouraged UNESCO to work with the Ministry of Education to establish platforms to clear misconception and ensure the concepts would not be against the culture and law. She also suggested UNFPA to bring the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth to the dialogue. She expressed the willingness to sit with the directors from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth to discuss the core concepts of CSE and the progress to be made.
If you are interested in knowing more about the programme or want to participate, please feel free to contact our National Project Officer, Mr. Samuel Asnake, email@example.com.
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