The Ministry of Education and Sports has defended the government proposal to teach sexuality education, clarifying that all stakeholders will be consulted before it is introduced in schools.
According to Mr Ismail Mulindwa, the commissioner- in-charge of private schools, although a framework on the policy was endorsed by the ministry recently, its actual implementation will only occur after reaching a consensus with all stakeholders.
“It is too early for the religious leaders to get worried. This is just a framework paper and implementation will come later, where messages and syllabi will be designed after consultation with religious leaders and other stakeholders,” Mr Mulindwa said during an interview on Saturday.
The government response comes days after Masaka Diocesan education officers vowed not to allow sexuality education to be taught in Church-founded schools in the area.
“We believe that this policy will promote promiscuity among children and we are under instructions not to allow it in our schools,” an official in the diocesan education department, who preferred anonymity to speak freely, said during an interview last week.
Masaka Diocese Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa was the first to
express disapproval of the policy while at Kosovo Cathedral on June 10 where he warned all school heads in Catholic Church- founded schools in the diocese not to implement the policy.
“No teacher will be allowed to stay in our schools if he/she dares to teach such nonsense,” the bishop said, adding: “I was once a teacher. When you teach something with an experiment, just know that the learners will have to do it practically.”
The Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), an assembly of Catholic bishops, has since protested the same policy, saying despite giving their views on the policy, government had substantially ignored them in its final draft.
In a June statement, Archbishop John Baptist Odama said although the policy has some good ideas and guidelines, it allows pupils in early ages to get exposed to content and life skills, which are not appropriate to them.
However, Mr Mulindwa said as government, they do not want to clash with religious leaders and the latter’s views will be considered in the final draft policy.
“We are going to honour their [religious leaders] views because they own 85 per cent of schools in Uganda. The good thing is that they [religious leaders] are not against the entire policy; they are only concerned over the age, but the issue of age became contentious because other stakeholders maintained that they cannot leave out the young ones, saying they are the most vulnerable than the adolescents,” he said.
Rev Fr Constantine Mbonabingi, the general secretary Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), said the decision to oppose sexuality education in schools was not taken by UEC alone, but the all religious denominations under UJCC.
He said since government did not honour their demand to exclude children aged between 3 and 9 from sexuality education, they resolved to oppose the entire programme from being implemented in all Christian-founded schools.
Controversy over policy
Sexuality education has been a controversial issue in Uganda over the past two years, with proponents of the policy saying it is necessary yet critics say it is uncalled for. This prompted the ministry of Gender to ban comprehensive sexuality education in schools in 2016.
However, recently the Education ministry approved the revised national sexuality education framework, a guide that schools are supposed to use while teaching sexuality education.
Among the reasons Education minister Janet Museveni gave for introducing the framework is the fact that Uganda is experiencing sexual and reproductive health challenges such as high cases of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, and gender-based violence.