There are key development changes that nearly all adolescents experience during their transition from childhood to adulthood. Adolescents might consider themselves grown up and therefore mature enough to have sex. Sexual relations among adolescents usually occur before they have gained adequate sexual information and empowerment regarding self-protection. This increases their vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections, early pregnancies and marriages and consequently adolescent motherhood.
The socioeconomic status of teen mothers is so devastating; they are likely to drop out of school and get denied a chance to complete education, job opportunity and eventually pushed into poverty. Uganda’s national adolescent pregnancy rate is 24%, with 3% of women married by age 15-19. Morbidity and mortality among adolescent mothers and their children are high. Adolescents often lack knowledge about consequences of unprotected sex. When adolescents are equipped with the necessary sexual information, they are likely to make sound decisions regarding their reproductive health. In Uganda, sexual information and literacy for adolescents is not obvious. It is not evident what the sources are; the content of sexual information, how it is acquired; and who should provide information to adolescents.
Methods: Cross-sectional study with qualitative and quantitative methods.
Results: Study evaluated 384 school going adolescents aged 13-19 years. 97.9% had got information about sexuality. The major source of sexual information was the school, followed by parents and the least was religious institutions. Adolescents received information on various topics: 96.8% on puberty and sexual changes, 94.2% on pregnancy and reproduction, 98.7% on STD information, 2% on abstinence and 3% on family planning. There were challenges which included the generation gap, lack of role models, peer influence and government policies.
Conclusions: Schools were the common sources and the least were religious leaders. The male character from all the sources was the least in offering sexual information to adolescents. Adolescents are not given the necessary and appropriate content sexual of information. Major challenges were; generation gap, lack of role models, peer influence and government policies.
Recommendations: Schools should be recognized as an
important source of sexual information, and therefore strengthen implementation of sex education in school curriculum. With sex education policy; the various topics should be addressed so that the content goes beyond coverage of basic biological facts.
Jonathan Magala is in-house Obstetrician and Gynecologist with more than 10 years in the practice of medicine. Dr. Magala heads our Maternal Health Department in the TMR international hospital, Uganda.