Countries where comprehensive sex education (CSE) is taught have the lowest teen pregnancy rates.
According to a global report by the World Bank on the teen fertility rates, countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark are among the top 10 with the lowest rates.
Kenya is at number 158 out of the 194 countries on the list.
Countries where the rate of teen pregnancy is low have a progressive approach to sexual education and teens have access to contraceptives.
The Ministry of Health, in its National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy (2015), advocates comprehensive sex education for 10 to 19-year-olds, including access to contraceptives.
The Kenyan government signed a declaration in 2013 in which it committed to scale up comprehensive rights-based sexuality education beginning in primary school, a promise that is yet to be fulfilled.
The challenge, according to Guttmacher Institute — a research organisation that studies, educates on, and advances sexual and reproductive health and rights — has been to reconcile rights-based methods of providing information and services to adolescents with conservative approaches.
Education sector policies in Kenya, the organisation points out, have largely promoted HIV education and focused on abstinence, resulting in a limited scope of topics in schools.
The loudest critics of CSE are lobby groups, which want the government to review it, terming it destructive and un-African.
In January last year, CitizenGo, an NGO, presented a petition to the Ministry of Education seeking to stop the roll-out of the curriculum.
“Comprehensive sex education is a highly controversial, rights-based approach that encompasses a great deal more than just teaching children and the youth about sexual intercourse and human reproduction.
“(This) curriculum is more destructive than Boko Haram or Al-Shabaab,” Ms Ann Kioko, the campaigns manager for the NGO, said at the time.
The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), which have in the past been opposed to introduction of sex education in schools, now say they will support the programme as long as it does not advocate use of contraceptives and parents are fully involved.
According to Ms Augusta Muthigani, Commissioner for Education at the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, parents are the first and most important educators of children and since they possess fundamental competency in this area, they should take the central role.
“We do not condone the push for sex education that alienates parents from their primary role, or use of contraceptives that promotes sexual freedom without responsibility and focuses on the physical pleasure of sexuality but ignores the importance of context and morality, values and dignity of the human person,” Ms Muthigani said.
NCCK Deputy General Secretary Nelson Makanda said the Ministry of Health should be compelled to withdraw the policy meant to facilitate provision of contraceptives to girls below 18 years and tough action be taken to stop provision of abortion services to Kenyans.
“NCCK is concerned about reports that comprehensive sex education is being taught in a number of schools across the country without the authority or knowledge of parents.
This must be stopped as it is destroying the moral values and social fabric,” said Dr Makanda.
Last year, close to 14,000 pregnancy cases were reported in Kilifi County, where the schoolgirls involved were aged between 15 and 19, a report by the children’s affairs department states.