Saturday, March 25

Comprehensive Health Education Caravan in BCC for Sensitization

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By Yunus S Saliu

The Curriculum Research Evaluation and Development Directorate (CREDD) under the Ministry of Basic Senior Education (MoBSE) on Tuesday embarked on a Comprehensive Health Education Caravan across the Banjul City Council (BCC) to sensitise, enlighten and educate the general public, especially school-going children and residents of Banjul on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH).

Among topics discussed but not limited to adolescents’ sexual and reproductive issues, communication, and social factors, the forum was held at McCarthy Square and attended by different schools in Banjul, teachers, counselors, health workers, CSOs, and educationists among others.

Comprehensive Health Education (CHE) is a household name among students and has benefited a lot of them across the Banjul City Council and Greater Banjul Area – Kanifing Municipal Council since its commencement.

Sounding opinions of some of the participants as the caravan proceeded, Amie Jaiteh of the Curriculum Directorate unit of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education said the Ministry attaches great importance to CHE and students are equipped with knowledge of sexual and reproductive health education so that they will know how to survive the challenges of the world and be able to take care of themselves.

Ms. Jaiteh noted that it is important that young people especially students take the lead to go around the community of Banjul and sensitise their peers on CHE which is one of the purposes of the caravan.

Sulayman A Njie, a former educationist, said looking at the retention rate in most of the schools, the girls are enrolled and sometimes drop out of school “it is just because of some social influence that has to happen to them either they are pregnant or they have been married out early to husband, so this is part of the problem need to address through CHE.”

“Comprehensive Health Education is a program that is so important to youngsters especially the youth like the girl child. It gives us the proper equipment that we need to protect ourselves especially when we are growing at the age of puberty” Anna Ndong and Ebrima Barry both participating students from St. Joseph Senior Secondary School and University students explained in an interview.

Anna Ndong extolled the project saying it is to help them to know how to take care of themselves and how to keep themselves before they are married. She said one of the most important things is that they are given quality education when it comes to sexual and reproductive health which is not limited to only girls but also boys.

While applauding the CHE team’s effort in sensitizing and teaching society what to do when their children are menstruating and before they reach the age of puberty, she appealed to parents to go closer to their children, know what they are going through and advise them while youngsters should get closer to their parents for any changes in their lives.

Despite numerous efforts and policy frameworks to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, adolescents aged (15-24) who constitute 32% of the population in The Gambia still lack access to quality Comprehensive Health Education (CHE) on preventing and protecting themselves against sexual and reproductive health problems.

Phebian Ina Grant-Sagnia, principal investigator of the project for Strengthening Access to Quality Comprehensive Health Education for in-and-out of School Adolescents in Region I, The Gambia who is also a Principal Health Researcher Ministry of Health dilated on the wide communication gap between parents, teachers, and students as regarding ASRH.

On this project, she said they are currently working with 43 schools and the caravan targets 6 schools in Banjul both upper and senior secondary in public and private schools and 9 wards.

However, she said they do school-based intervention where teachers are trained on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) issues/or topics of both in-service teachers and those undergoing the Primary School Teachers’ Certificate (PTC) qualifications at The Gambia College.

Meanwhile, the caravan is part of the CHE’s community-based interventions where communities are engaged in forums and different sessions on adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues in the form of drama, caravan, and film shows, empowering girls and boys with information and services on sexual and reproductive health on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and advocacy activities focusing on community leaders, policymakers and educational stakeholders.

CHE program is under Strengthening Access to Quality Comprehensive Health Education in The Gambia, an implementation research project done by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC). It is meant to enlighten and educate in and out-of-school students on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH).