Data from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a non-governmental organisation, (IPA) says 43% of all females in Ghana have sexual intercourse before the age of 18, and unwanted pregnancy is common.
But statistics on teenage pregnancy should make parents reconsider their position because most of the pregnancies could have been avoided if girls had knowledge of contraceptives and how to use them.
Forty-two percent of 15-19 year-old girls who had sex ended up pregnant and more than three-fourths of these girls who gave birth said they had not wanted the pregnancy at the time of conception.
The sad aspect of this data is that many girls who become pregnant drop out of school, affecting their education and employment opportunities later on in life.
But teaching abstinence is not enough, according to Slawa Rokicki, a PHD student at Harvard University and principal investigator of Study on mHealth and Reproductive Health in Teens (SMART).
“While abstinence is a good idea and that we should educate girls on how to delay sex, I don’t think that is always possible,” Rokicki told Pulse.com.gh in an interview. “We should be able to teach girls all of the tools that are at their disposal to help protect their health, prevent pregnancy and help prevent sexual transmitted diseases.”
“It is very relevant for girls to learn how to use such contraceptives,” she said.
The information they get is not always reliable: the most recent results of a national survey of adolescent health found that adolescents lacked fundamental knowledge about how to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
But Felicia Boakye-Yiadom, regional director of GES for Greater Accra region, says teaching girls in senior high schools how to use contraceptives will draw resentment from society.
“How do you teach them how to use condoms?” she quizzed.
“Should a teacher take a condom to class to teach the children how to use the condom? I want you to go and try it in the schools and see how parents will get up against it.”
She argues that we should look at our society and in our context when talking about adolescent reproductive health.
According to US organisation Planned Parenthood, sex education that is responsible and medically accurate begins in kindergarten and continues in an age-appropriate manner through the 12th grade is necessary given the early ages at which young people are initiating intercourse.
Sex education programs that are balanced and realistic, according to Planned Parenthood, encourage students to postpone sex until they are older, and promote safer-sex practices among those who choose to be sexually active. They have been proven effective at delaying first intercourse and increasing the use of contraception among sexually active youth.