American Samoa parents need to be convinced regarding sex ed
More work to be done to convince parents and religious leaders in American Samoa of the need for sex education in the classroom.
The head of the Family Planning programme in American Samoa says one of the biggest obstacles to getting sex education in schools, is convincing parents that it's about empowering their children to make the right choices, and not about teaching them how to have sex.
The director of the American Samoa Education Department, Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, says students in grades seven to 12 need to spend some time on sex education during their Health and Physical Education classes.
She says many parents may not be happy at the prospect of sex education in classrooms but would be open to reviewing this if they knew about the rise in teen pregnancies over the past five years.
The head of the LBJ hospital's Family Planning division, Marilyn Pavitt-Anesi, says Vaitinasa's comments are very encouraging, and they are working with the department in trying to make sex education in schools a reality.
She told Leilani Momoisea that while they are making baby steps in the right direction, more work is needed to convince parents and religious leaders of the need for sex education in the classroom.
Marilyn Pavitt-Anesi: American Samoa, we're very religious and very strong cultural country, so we just need to work a few things out and make sure that we can deliver the message in a culturally appropriate and culturally sensitive way and also in a way that also appeases the religious leaders.
Leilani Momoisea: And that must be quite a difficult balancing task.
MPA: It is, because they maintain that abstinence of course is the best, and we totally agree with that. But we would be burying our heads in the sand to think that...the data we have proves that the teenagers are having sex at a young age, and our teen pregnancy rate is sort of increasing slowly now which is a good thing, but we're still at a level now where we would like to see it lower. So, what we want to do is, education is power, and empowering our young people so that with more knowledge they can be empowered to prevent at risk-behaviour, and just to have more knowledge so that they can have good behaviour. It's all about changing the behaviour and changing the way they're thinking.
LM: And I suppose in some ways it's also educating parents, as well as students.
MPA: That is the biggest obstacle. The students themselves, the High School students, absolutely want to have sex education in the schools. So what we have to do is to go through the parents, we have to educate the parents and some of the parents are more understanding than others. Some of the parents think that by educating them, having sex education, we're teaching them how to go on and have sex and if they have birth control methods, we're saying OK now you have birth control methods it's OK for you to have sex, but that's not it at all, not at all. So we have to work on the parents, and we have to work on the religious leaders because the religious leaders are very influential in our society. So long as we can get our foot in the door, that's a start.
Marilyn Pavitt-Anesi says they simply want to give students the right message, and the facts, otherwise teens will get the information from from their friends or the internet, and that information is not always right.
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