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Condoms distribution in Zimbabwe schools a burning issue 

10 Aug 2012 at 12:05hrs | Views

The proposal to distribute condoms in schools as a means to promote safer sex among school children has been a centre of controversy for some time now.

Some people think that it is the right thing to do because children nowadays know a lot about sex and some of them even engage in sexual activities thus having condoms in schools would not make a difference.
On the other hand, there is an argument that if condoms are distributed in schools, it will be simply telling the schoolchildren that it is right for them to have sexual intercourse while they are still minors.
Mrs Ntobeko Sibanda, a parent in Bulawayo, said teenagers were capable of making good decisions and just needed to be informed about issues.
"Some people may argue that condom distribution is a misguided solution due to the fact that it encourages promiscuity; however, that is a misconception because teenagers are quite capable of making good decisions, they just need to be better informed," she said.
Recently the National Aids Council (Nac) said it was proposing amendments to a number of laws that could see the distribution of condoms at schools as a way of fighting the HIV and Aids scourge.
Nac said they were bringing out a view on what they had found out in a survey and what the general public felt would be the panacea to the spread of the HIV virus.
Chief Gambiza from Chiwundura communal lands in Midlands recently urged the Government to come up with a policy that would allow for the distribution of condoms among youth that are sexually active in schools.
Chief Gambiza, however, differed with Minister David Coltart, urging Government to wake up to the reality that schoolchildren were becoming sexually active at an early age.
"Things have changed now, children are now indulging in sex earlier than before and Government needs to realise that and use such realities to craft their policies.
"There is a need for Government to come up with a policy that will allow for the distribution of condoms among school children as a way of preventing the spread of HIV among school going youth," said Chief Gambiza.
Mr Professor Ndlovu (30) of Bulawayo holds an opposing view.
"Schools are supposed to be teaching values, self-discipline and self-control, and the distribution of condoms should be left to health professionals. Pupils in school are still children and should be practising abstinence," he said.
Proponents of distribution of the sheath state that free condom distribution would ensure that teenagers practise safe sex and that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy declines. Opponents of distribution state that free condom distribution would encourage sexual activity and foster the idea that premarital sex was acceptable.
Many argue that quite a large number of high school pupils engage in unsafe sexual practices, thus putting them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases so they say condoms should be distributed in schools.
Ndlovu's remarks came hard on the heels of Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Coltart's refusal to allow the distribution of condoms in schools.
"There is no way we can allow distribution of condoms in schools. Parents want their children to abstain from sex at school age. Schoolchildren should focus on their studies; we can't have condoms in school toilets, classrooms and libraries," Minister Coltart was quoted as saying in a local weekly.
Nompilo Sangweni (17), a student at a local college said if they introduce condoms in schools, then they would be simply giving a licence that school pupils should have sex.
"Distribution of condoms in schools is not right because they will be giving students a licence that school pupils can partake in sexual intercourse.
"The assumption is that children are engaging in sex thus they want to distribute condoms in schools. If that is the case then they should also distribute drugs and alcohol in schools as the assumption is that some teenagers are taking drugs," she said.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Mrs Tendai Chikowore said distribution of condoms in schools was immoral and against African values and culture.
"It is immoral as teachers should be teaching children abstinence and morality that they should abstain from indulging in sexual intercourse.
"If schools distribute condoms then we will actually be promoting immorality to children as they would want to experiment since they are readily available in schools.
"From an African point of view this is taboo, not that we are being old fashioned but we will be simply saying to the children it is right to do this," she said.
Nac head Dr Tapiwa Magure denied that Nac advocated distributing condoms in schools.
"We never advocated distributing condoms in schools but we want to distribute them in colleges and tertiary institutions as they are the most affected areas," he said.
This debate on condom distribution in schools is not exclusive to Zimbabwe, as across the Limpopo, South Africa recently adopted a Children's Act that provides children the right to access reproductive health services as a way of addressing the HIV pandemic. However, there is confusion about how socially divisive rights provided for by the Act, such as condom access for youth, would be achieved.
The Children's Act, together with South African Government policies, allows individual schools to decide whether to distribute condoms, but most school staff are unaware of South African policy and regulations governing condom provision in schools.
Because of confusing and contradictory Government policies and public pronouncements regarding provision of condoms in public schools, few schools have undertaken to provide them, leaving students, especially in rural areas, with few options for obtaining them.
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