Sex education, as Union health minister Harsh Vardhan knows it, never really took off in city schools.
Hardly any school imparts sex education as part of their curricula. Teachers do not talk about bodily changes and man-woman relationships in the class and even a mention of it still produces giggles and quick stares. The city has not yet risen up to the need for empowering children to understand sexual, emotional and physical changes.
Sceptics may let out a sigh in relief, but many experts believe there was the best time to start sex education classes in school. While teachers in most schools still wonder how to deal with children who often know more than them, some schools have found a way around it by designing their own life skills programmes.
“We take the girls of Class VI separately to talk to them about these things. In Class VII, such discussions happen face to face where students can ask questions about friendships, relationships and family. They study about reproductive health in Class VIII and in Class XI, have sessions with panels of counsellors,” explained Jyoti Bose, principal, Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan.
With children exposed to unrestrained information, sex education isn’t just that. Children have to be taught to stay safe, understand what they see in media and know about physical changes in them. At Modern School, Barakhama Road, it’s senior students who do it for their juniors. “We have peer trainers who are prepared by counselors. They then have discussions with younger students. We have not fitted sex education in the time-table, but we carry it out through such sessions,” claimed principal Lata Vaidyanathan.
The ministry of human resource development had initiated the Adolescent Education Programme in 2005 and unlike many other states that banned it, the Delhi government included in its YUVA programme.
According to a Delhi government brochure, “This fascinating programme covers the entire range of issues facing the adolescence from puberty to pimples and fair skin to nutrition. It tackles sensitive areas such as HIV/AIDS, smoking, substance abuse, molestation and female foeticide.”
About 38,000 teachers were trained, which involved “attending classes on yoga and meditation to watching films like Munnabhai MBBS to learn the power of appreciation and a warm hug.” However, it could not really turn into a regular in-school activity.
The CBSE wrote to all schools in 2005 to implement Adolescence Reproductive and Sexual Health Education. National Progressive Schools Conference chairperson Ameeta Mulla Wattal said thousands of teachers were being trained to carry out the adolescent education programme. “Sex education should not be seen so narrowly. It involves so many issues that our country deals with like violence on women, child pregnancy,” Wattal said.
Not just Delhi, but other states too are struggling to find the right way to introduce sex education. Maharashtra has still been unable to create a formal space for sex education. The Vilasrao Deshmukh government in 2007 and former education minister Vasant Purke in 2008 both faced opposition while attempting to make sex education mandatory in schools. In BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh also, none of the government or missionary schools have sex education in their curricula ever since the Raman Singh government imposed a ban on it in 2007.
(With inputs from states)