5 November 2012

Kenya: Our Children Perish for Lack of Knowledge

In Hosea 4:6, we are told "my people perish from a lack of knowledge..." This was true then and even more apparent today. In fact, I would like to paraphrase that and say "our young people perish from a lack of knowledge, basic knowledge".

How is it possible that in a world of information, loads and loads of information, available at the click of a mouse, a world where you can learn how to make a nuclear bomb on the internet, how is it possible that young people don't know anything about sex - not the doing - but the biology of it? How is it that they seem clueless about their anatomy?

On understanding and appreciating that the research is true and that young people are more horrified at the prospect of getting pregnant than catching an STD or even HIV, we don't understand why the same young people don't take a more proactive step to protect themselves by having protected sex.

They argue of course that all the communication on condoms is about HIV and they don't care about HIV, but surely the option is not reasoning and behaving like cave people.

The myths propagated by the tribe that is Generation Y are random as they are ridiculous and jaw-dropping. However, now that I understand that biology in high school is an elective subject (someone please find the fool who made this decision and fire them) and parents also don't speak to their kids about sex and expect it to be taught in school, yet in some cases when it is taught in school we threaten to riot - allow me to use the few words I'm allocated in this space to burst some of the myths and nonsense. I'm hoping that you in turn will use this as "window" to take up the conversation with your teens before they perish from a lack of knowledge.

Most teens and young adults feel pressured into having sex because the prevailing myth is "Everyone is doing it!" No, everyone is not doing it and that includes the adults.

Mum and dad need to say this loudly and clearly and you can count on me to back you up on this - it may seem like everyone's doing it, but in reality, less than half (48 per cent) of all high school students have never had sex.

I know this for a fact from my high school years - people lie and exaggerate and talk big, but the fact is, not everyone is doing it and having sex is not something to brag about - cows, bees, birds and even frogs do it.

The other nasty piece of talk young people like to fling at each other is that you're daft, or you're such a baby if you want to wait until you are older.

Actually, the truth is you are smart and they just might hate you for having the sense, smarts and will power to wait. There is a right time for everything including sex.

The truth is that most teens who have had sex say they wish they had waited. A 22-year-old girl called into The Big Breakfast last week and stated clearly, if she had known then what she knows now, she'd still be a virgin. Enough said.

Then of course there is the ridiculous ideals and portrayals from the media. There is an award-winning myth about glowing, successful, attractive, grown up women who are clearly having sex.

It's that silly line that goes "you're glowing, are you having some?" I didn't know that young girls buy into that, but now that I know, I'd like to ask the censorship board to forget bleeping the profanity, bleep out this nonsense instead - that's the real danger.

The same nonsense is fed to the guys "you're walking with a spring in your step, there's something macho about you, you must be getting some".

Once again, bleep this, leave the curse words alone - the danger lies in this madness. A headsup to young people, the girl who seems unfocused, random, crying in a corner, unable to concentrate on anything - that's the one having sex and is upset that all the things she had been led to believe would happen once she had sex haven't materialised and she's wishing she could turn back the clock. Don't believe the hype.

Let me get to the myths about sex and pregnancy because herein lies the madness. Maybe our message on using protection and abstaining were lost in translation because protection was all about STDs and HIV. Okay, let me make it official, it's also about the dreaded word amongst generation Y - pregnant.

You can't get pregnant the first time you have sex. That's a lie.

If biology hadn't been made an elective subject in school, you would know by now that you get pregnant when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Neither the sperm nor the egg care how many times you've had sex previously. The only way to avoid the risk of pregnancy is to not have sex at all.

Girls can't get pregnant during their period - silly myth if there ever was one.

This is another reason biology should be made compulsory in high school. Once in the vagina, sperm can stay alive for several days--that means that, even if the last time you had sex was three days ago during your period, you could now be ovulating and therefore you could get pregnant. ANY time you have sex you can get pregnant, so always use protection.

You can't get pregnant if you've never had a period - that's a dangerous lie.

Your body will not send you an SMS saying your first ever period is due in three months from today. You may ovulate 14 days before your first period so it is possible to get pregnant even if you haven't had a period yet. Duh!

The other lot of myths, I'll leave to you to discuss. They go a little like this. A girl can't get pregnant/ a guy can't get a girl pregnant if:

1. you have sex standing up;

2. the girl is on top;

3. you have sex in a hot tub or a swimming pool;

4. you jump up and down immediately after sex - the recommendation is 200 jumping jacks;

5. the girl takes a bath, or urinates immediately after sex;

6. the girl pushes really hard on her belly button after sex; or

7. the girl makes herself sneeze for 15 minutes after sex.

Incidentally, these myths are universal. Young people are by and large the same the world over. Of course, we got a few rare gems from Kenya. They include:

1. the girl sitting in a basin of warm water for 30 minutes after sex;

2. squeezing lemon juice into your vagina after sex or inserting a lemon wedge;

3. drinking a hot water mixture of laundry detergent. I refuse to name the brands our female caller mentioned - it's not worth it.

4. Take a drink of stoney before and after sex.

The reason I remain peeved at both parents and the education system for deciding that biology was an elective and not compulsory course in school is because it is also clear that high school students have no clue how their anatomy works or looks like, any more than they know their reproductive or digestive systems.

Google is your friend and this goes out to teens and parents alike. Get on and find the information you need to stem the curiosity that leads to them getting their sex education from other misguided souls.

Allow me to finish as I started - with Hosea 4:6 - but let's read the entire verse - as Kenyans we are very good at quoting only the sections of scripture that we want to manipulate.

The King James version of that verse puts it very well: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Don't let our children be destroyed or forgetten - equip them with the knowledge they need to survive this crazy world we live in. The conversation continues on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/carolinemutoko.

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