Nowadays, we can see that children and youth are facing with many issues, namely educational, social, cultural, political and sexual concerns. We may also find that these problems are happening more frequently. State agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, have been searching for methods while planning to collaborate to achieve solutions to the problems continuously.
We had a good chance to talk to a schoolteacher from Khon Kaen. This teacher acts as a school guidance counselor who has worked and mingled closely with children in their primary and secondary school years for so long that she has seen many aspects of problems, especially the issues of sexual health education.
The problematic situation of the children and youth in the area from her point of view is their lack of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health. These young people barely know how to take care of themselves. Most of them simply know that they are female or male only.
Another important issue is the education system. This teacher views the curriculum we use today as somewhat too late for our children. We should educate the pupils about how they change since the age of 10 when they are beginning to experience pubertal changes.
We can see that our education system, regardless of era, does not foster the children to love and respect themselves or their health although they need to have some basic knowledge to prepare themselves before entering adolescence.
In terms of youth risk behaviors, the teacher is very worried and concerned about the following:
Earlier dates. Before, prior to having a boyfriend or girlfriend, teenagers would take time to consider how this might be or whether their ages differ greatly. Now, many feel that having a date will make them worthy or even the school’s popular superstar. This leads to the creation of a “must-be-in-relationship” norm. If you are not, it means you are ugly or worthless.
Lack of safe sex knowledge. Although they know that protection is essential, teenagers fail to do it properly. So, they made the extremely risky choice, using the pull-out method.
Shamefulness. Teens are too embarrassed to ask for a consultation. They are fearful of being questioned “have you been sexually active?” Or, “you are seeing someone, aren’t you?” They are afraid that if they admit it, they will be perceived as the kids who are having a trouble. They also fear that their parents will not understand them. For example, during the initial menstrual periods, they are often emotionally unstable, leading to “anxiety.” Many girls are repeatedly embarrassed because of the accidental period stains on skirts. And many school bathrooms are dirty or do not have a bidet spray and tampon trash bin.
No access to channels providing practical sexual knowledge. For instance, mobile phones are not allowed in many schools, stating “students will focus on chat or LINE.” At home, there is nobody who can provide such knowledge. Since they have nowhere to turn to, teenagers, thus, mistakenly seek for some information from their friends or websites, not realizing whether such information is accurate or not.
More “control”, less “protection”. Adults are accustomed to dealing with issues because of fear. For example, children are not allowed to use the Internet for adults fear that their children would go astray.
Recommendations to address these problems, in the view of the teacher who works closely with students is that children should learn about health and sexual education before stepping into puberty in order to obtain the information that is accurate, appropriate and practical for this technology advancement era. Schools have to introduce their students to this information, including opening an access to creative technology media by providing the suitably friendly and safe environment.
In addition, Teen’s Corners in health facilities should create work strategies to provide services that are easy to access for the children so that they do not feel embarrassed to visit for consultations.
Solving sexual problems is endless. Therefore, we need to nurture our children with knowledge, affection and understanding, along with practical information about the prevention and protection that the children should learn about and be fostered by schools and can use in everyday life.
Suggestions from the children’s points of view to schools are that they want to have some knowledge about their own physical development and reproductive health as well as the easy access to knowledge repositories. The children also require having teachers who are able to provide practical knowledge and keep their confidentiality to the maximum level. And finally, they want to have bathrooms with bidet sprayers and trash bins, too.