Life lessons we take for grantedFriday, August 13, 2021
When I reflect on my high school guidance and counselling class I can't help but wonder, is it any different for today's health and family life education (HFLE) student.
The fading memory is of me begrudgingly walking to the nurse's office for a lecture lasting for some 40 minutes. Once in the room, classmates jostled to occupy the rusted and chipped metal chairs far away from the teacher in the hope of being inconspicuous. The disinterest in the topics and the samples of contraceptive methods she held aloft was in stark contrast to the interest displayed in the copies of the Mills and Boon romance novels concealed in the pages of larger books.
For me, it wasn't one of those courses that mattered like maths or English. Back then I didn't see the relevance of this class to the rest of my life.
Fast-forward a few more years and truth be told I have come to understand that the information the guidance counsellors and school nurses imparted was extremely important. It provided a road map to steer us on a roadway with fewer speed bumps and roadblocks.
Hear me out. Most boys and girls attain puberty while still in secondary school. In order to fully understand and deal with the inevitable body changes they need to have the knowledge.
The hormonal roller-coaster ride can also send adolescents into an emotional spiral. The discernment or judgement needed in decision-making has not yet been fully developed, and some follow their hearts and engage in early sexual activity. Guidance and counselling provides the facts on how pregnancy happens, and an introduction to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
Getting the facts from an authority figure, the nurse or HFLE teacher, and referring to them rather than a classmate or someone else in their own age group, who is also trying to find his or her way, simply makes common sense. Choosing wisely can make a marked difference in the outcome of engagement in early sexual activity.
Contraceptives come in handy much later, but there are legitimate instances when teenaged girls are prescribed these hormonal pills, such as to regulate their irregular periods or treat acne. But, for the most part, the contraceptives take a woman through her reproductive years. Knowing what methods are most appropriate at a particular stage in life is important in order to gain maximum benefit.
Contraceptives are a great aid in helping couples plan pregnancies, the number of years between children, and when they want to stop having children, but still enjoy an active sex life without the worry of an unplanned pregnancy.
The HFLE syllabus is more exhaustive today, and is implemented earlier than it was during my time. Theory mixed in with real-life stories and a bit of humour can make an otherwise uninteresting subject quite riveting. So the next time the teacher whips out the samples of the condom, pill packet, intrauterine device, implant, injectable, or any other pregnancy or STI prevention method consider it a great learning moment. It has merit.
Director, Communications and Public Relations
National Family Planning Board