At a camp he organised for adolescent girl students at his school about six months ago, Syed Fazle Ahmed (40), Principal, Veena Memorial Secondary School in Karauli district of Rajasthan, 180 km southwest of Jaipur, spent some time talking to them about contraception.
The next day, back in his office, he found a flood of angry parents at his door. “These were all well educated people,” he said. “But all of them, specially the mothers, felt we were corrupting their daughters by discussing such matters.”
Sex education came to Rajasthan schools for the first time in 2005. It was not, however, the same syllabus formalised that year by the union HRD ministry and the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), and introduced elsewhere. That was found too explicit for Rajasthani consumption.
Instead a much watered down version — with the course being called Jeevan Kaushal (Life Skills) was brought in. Jeevan Kaushal, meant for Class X1 students, does not even mention terms like ‘sexual intercourse’, ‘masturbation’ or ‘safe sex’ . But even this course seems to be facing problems.
“The girls don’t even talk to their mothers about a natural body function like menstruation,” said Rajkumari Makwana, principal of the Government Senior Secondary School for Girls in Nagaur, 300 km west of Jaipur.
The second is a widely held belief that sex need not be taught, young people get to know about it anyway. “By Class XI, children become quite mature,” said Seema Kothari, principal of an Ajmer government school. “They don't need us to tell them these things.”
But statistics point to a different reality. The nationwide District Level Household and Facility Survey 3 shows that 71 per cent of girls between the age of 15-24 years in the state felt sex education is important. Only about 38 per cent, however, claimed to have received it.