By Ndey Sowe
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) Friday commenced a two-day sensitization forum in Banjul to enlighten stakeholders on adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues (ASRH) under a project called Strengthening Access to Quality Comprehensive Health Education in The Gambia.
The forum held at McCarthy Square in Banjul on Friday and Saturday, 26th and 27th February, 2021 respectively was attended by deputy mayor of Banjul City Council, religious leaders, councillors, youths and representatives of different CSOs.
Strengthening Access to Quality Comprehensive Health Education in The Gambia is an implementation research project being implemented by MoBSE, with funding from International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada.
Mrs. Phebian Ina Grant-Sagnia, principal investigator of the aforesaid project for in-and-out of School Adolescents in Region I- The Gambia, gave a detail background of the project.
Grant-Sagnia, who is also a Principal Health Researcher at the Ministry of Health, said the study was carried out in four different phases. She said phase 1 includes a simple random survey in school adolescents aged 10-19 years stratified by age and sex from selected public and private schools in Western Region 1, Kanifing Municipal Council with focus group discussions with out of school adolescents.
“And key informant interviews of school principals and teachers, curriculum developers and program implementers, staff of youth organisations and NGOs, and also religious and traditional leaders were used to collect quantitative and qualitative data,” she noted.
Mrs Grant-Sagnia said phase 2 includes the quantitative and qualitative data collected and analysed and used to support the design and implementation of school and community-based programs, while phase 3 is an assessment on the effect of the implementation of the school and community-based programs.
And the fourth phase, she said, centered on the lessons learned from the implementation of the school and community-based programs and will be used to identify the relevant factors to consider in ensuring effective coordination of comprehensive health education across various partners and in sustaining and scaling up the schools and community-based programs to other Gambian regions.
Speaking on behalf of Momodou Jeng, Director of Curriculum MoBSE, Mrs Fatou Dally Bittaye, said research has already been conducted and lots of things were discovered and would be shared by the doctor and researchers, because everyone is involved in one way or another. She said the stakeholders are the key and heart of the project.
“You have to help us and together we can help the youth as many adolescents are into early marriages, having unwanted pregnancy and baby dumping which is a thing of the past is now gradually resurfacing,” she said.
Madam Bittaye said parts of the project are good for those that are in-and-outside the school as a curriculum is designed for them which will get them informed about their bodies, puberty, reproductive health rights, responsibilities, guiding and counseling, gender rights, responsibility among other things that will be taught in schools.
“When research is done with its finding, let us not leave the findings to lie down to gather dust,” she appealed.
However, the research revealed some key findings and some challenges regarding implementing comprehensive health education for adolescents in and out-of-school as reported by officials of NGOs, CSO, and School Authorities.
Among the identified challenges are lack of coordination across various implementing agencies of sexual and reproductive health programs, funding gaps for sexual and reproductive health programs, policy restrictions and societal norms that perceived discussions on sexual and reproductive health issues as highly culturally sensitive were all reported as major obstacles to implementing programs on sexual and reproductive health education for out of schools adolescents.
More so, inadequate teaching hours spent on sexual and reproductive health topic; limited stakeholder participation in curriculum development, limited teacher trainings on sexual and reproductive health issues were perceived as major challenges to implementing comprehensive health education for adolescents in school.