Teaching the Teachers: Introducing Sexuality Education at Madagascar’s Largest Teacher Training University
“It is of real importance to be inserted because it is beneficial for boys, beneficial for girls, and beneficial for society.”
Quality, rights-based sexuality education that enables young people to make informed decisions about their lives and bodies is a fundamental human right and has a positive and life-long effect on the health and well-being of young people. However, long-standing cultural taboos associated with talking openly about sex, sexuality, and contraception, combined with under-resourced healthcare and education systems, limit the opportunities for Malagasy youth to obtain the knowledge and guidance to make informed sexual decisions. As a result, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) indicators, such as rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, are concerning across the country. These indicators are further compounded by a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception.
To respond to the needs of Malagasy youth, SEED, through Project Safidy, collaborated with the Ministry of National Education to integrate sexual and reproductive health topics within the national high school curriculum. In 2021, the curriculum was made available across Madagascar, and SEED and the Ministry of National Education have worked together to deliver training on delivering SRHR education to teachers.
To further support the delivery of sexuality education through the national curriculum, SEED partnered with Madagascar’s largest teacher training university to pilot an SRHR teacher training programme for trainee teachers. A 13-topic companion curriculum was designed to equip trainee teachers with the knowledge and confidence to teach sexual health topics to Malagasy youth after they graduate from university.
The views of trainee teachers:
In focus group discussions held by SEED in 2022, trainee teachers expressed support for the inclusion of sexual health topics in the university curriculum and were eager to learn more. They reflected on their own experiences of growing up without access to sexual health education and recognised the importance of accurate education.
“I am ready because I see the effects of my lack of knowledge, so I am ready, not wanting younger generations to experience what I had.”
On the other hand, the trainee teachers also highlighted several barriers to teaching sexuality education in high schools. Many commented on the role of Malagasy cultural values, explaining that sexual health topics are often seen as taboo and not openly discussed and that they may be seen as going against the Christian values tightly held by many Malagasy people. However, several trainee teachers emphasized that society is changing, and there is a role for sexuality education to play in supporting these changes.
“What I mean by cultural barriers is could we think of a way to help teachers eradicate cultures that promote violence, for example, those that encourage early marriage.”
The trainee teachers were also keen to suggest better ways to teach sexual health topics. The teachers argued that due to high dropout rates before young people reach high school, not to mention the fact that many experience puberty and relationships before this age, sexual health topics should be introduced in age-appropriate ways to middle (CEG) or primary (EPP) school children.
“It would be great to deliver sexual education in middle school to increase young people’s knowledge, we know that due to the difficulty of life, parents do not have the time to talk and educate their children anymore.”
In the next phase of Project Safidy, SEED will continue to support the teacher training university to equip trainee teachers with the skills and confidence to deliver sexuality education upon graduation. By embedding sexuality education within the teacher training curriculum, SEED aims to ensure the sustainability of the project and support incoming teachers to meet the SRHR education needs of Malagasy youth in the future.