Thwaites says no to condoms in schools

Thwaites says no to condoms in schools

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites said yesterday that a positive, value-laden and age-appropriate Health and Family Life Curriculum has been revised by a broad-based working group for use in all schools.

The revision followed the
pulling, in 2012, of a controversial curriculum from local high
schools because of its graphic
sexual content.

Addressing the issue then, Thwaites said at least two persons involved in the drafting of the curriculum, "had a particular agenda and were able to embed it in the curriculum".

That curriculum which, among other things, required grades seven to nine students to be quizzed on whether they had ever been involved in homosexual and heterosexual activities, and created a firestorm with parents and teachers questioning the process by which the Ministry of Education approved its teaching guides. The education minister subsequently instructed that the material be withdrawn and rewritten.

Thwaites, making his contribution yesterday to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate at Gordon House in Kingston, made it clear that schools were not 'rompin shops'.

"Let it be clear, we will not be grooming children towards same-sex unions and we will not be distributing condoms in schools. Restraint must be taught by example and precept. Sex education, yes; condoms no," he noted.

The minister — a Roman Catholic deacon — said the mass media, the 'carnival culture' and confused family values were among forces which have weakened the truth that premature sex was the thief of true love. Guidance counsellors and their counterparts in the school and community health-care systems, he added, must know what to do when a student is in danger of sexual abuse.

In the meantime, he called on Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies to heed the call of the teachers, and parents to cut out the music in the buses, remove the tints and train the crews to deal with 'schoolers'.

"The experiences on the buses and on the street have a direct effect on what is said and done in school. This is a call to action," added the education minister.

Last month, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, said his stance taken in 2008 as education minister on the suggested distribution of birth control in schools remained the same.

"... School is not a dispensary for prophylactics; we distribute knowledge and information. The health sector can if they so choose to do; they have trained personnel to distribute condoms," Holness said.

"We distribute knowledge, they can put up in the school a display to show how condoms are to be used. It is inappropriate, I believe, to the majority of Jamaicans and parents, too, to have the school become a dispensary," the Jamaica Labour Party leader said.

Government's policy states that only health officials can issue prophylactics on a wide scale; the law also states that no person under 16 can consent to having sex. In particular, the Child Care and Protection Act prohibits the ministry from authorising such a move.

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