A study of adolescent attitude towards sex education in the senior secondary school

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Background to the Study

The Nigerian society today has to grapple with many behavioural problems of its youth.  Such problems include truancy, disobedience, drug offences, assault, insult, stealing, violent, demonstration, vandalism, examination malpractices, robbery and secret cult activities (Nnachi, 2003).  Apart from these widely publicized behavioural problems, heterosexual activities are also listed among types of behavioural problems prevalent in Nigeria secondary schools.  These are variously named in the literature as sex abuse, sex offences, sexual misconduct, sexual immorality, sexual promiscuity and sexual maladjustment (Odoemelam, 1996; Adedipe, 2000; Ndu, 2000; Nnachi, 2003).

The end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century represented an important period in the invention of the concept we now call adolescence.  Adolescence can be described as the period between the latter stage of childhood and early stage of adulthood (Health Foundation of Ghana, 2004).  The World Health Organization (WHO) suggested adolescence to be the period between the ages of 10 and 19 or the second decade of life.  Adolescence, therefore, refers to boys and girls who fall within this stage or period.

Sex education simply refers to the systematic attempt to promote the healthy awareness in the individual on matters of his or sound development, functioning, behavior and attitude through direct teaching.  Sex is a topic, which most people would not like to talk about.  The Nigerian parents’ attitude to sex is that the child will grow to know.  In the home, when the child is present and parents are discussing issues about sex, even the adolescent child is kept away from sight.  An inquisitive child who ventures to ask questions about sex is morally branded “a bad” child.  Many society and homes consider discussion of sexual issues as a taboo.  In view of this, most parents find it too difficult, awkward and uncomfortable to discuss sex-related issues with their children.  Children are condemned when they mention a word referring to some sexual organ or act.  Even the hands of babies are hit whenever they fondle with their sex organs.  Due to this, throughout adolescence, the youth in the country learn about sex and sexuality in a variety of ways devoid, in most cases of factual and empirical information and in secrecy.

The child comes to know about sex possibly from an early age through relatives, friends, the elderly, movies, and drawing.  A 14 year old boy was asked where he learned about sex, he responded “in the streets’.  Asked if this was the only place, he said “well, I learned some from play boy and others sex magazines”.  What about school, he was asked?  He responded, “No, they talk about hygiene, but not much that could help you out”.  When asked his parents’ contribution, he replied “they haven’t told me one thing” (Powers and Baskin, 1969).

In a similar survey contained in the Population Report (1995), seventy-five percent of the students sampled preferred to discuss about bodily changes that occur during adolescence with peers of the same sex, non of them wanted it to be with their parents.  As a result of a cultural taboo, adolescents in many developing countries rarely discuss sexual matters explicitly with their parents.  Most information for their patchy knowledge often comes from peers of the same sex, who may themselves be uninformed or incorrectly informed.  The end result to know about one’s sexual development, hence experimentation to explore one’s sexual life.

The issue of introducing sex education has been a tropical and controversial one with two schools of thought emerging.  This scholarly tug of war has engaged the attention of policy makers and government the world over, religious organization, parents and even children.  Many are those who have called for its introduction due to the apparent havoc that irresponsible and unplanned sexual behavior brings.

As a child reaches the adolescence stage, the interest in the opposite sex generates.  This instinct – (sex drive) which has been present with the adolescent since childhood pushes him or her to ‘pet’, kiss and manipulate the sex organ, etc.  Curiosity and experimentation of sex, which sometimes leads to teenage pregnancy and or contraction of STD (sexually transmitted diseases) are prevalent at this adolescent stage.

Statement of the Problem

A lot of sex related problems facing the youth of today is undoubtedly linked with lack of sex education.  It is apt to point out that even though these (matters about sex) impinge generally on men, the vulnerable group is the youth, many of whom are not knowledgeable in matters concerning sex.  In their bid to satisfy their curiosity, many a youth would like to experiment these things and inexperience usually lead them into dangerous consequences.   Many a time, the adolescent receive wrong information and these myths and misconception are carried throughout their life time.  Therefore, there is a need to provide adolescents with information so as to enable them to cope better with these changes (Sathe, 1992).

The fact is that with or without these services, the tendency towards precocious sexual relations, pregnancy in adolescence and the alarming increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in these age groups, are commonplace and universal realities.  It is necessary that the adolescent is made aware of these bodily changes through education before they occur so that they can adequately prepare themselves before the asset of puberty, and also help them engage in other activities rather than sexual manipulation.  The study, therefore, sought to explore the adolescents’ opinion on various sexual issues that account for their sexual development and to establish the need for sex education in senior high schools in some selected schools in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to:

  • Determine the nature of the adolescence thoughts and feelings towards sex education.
  • To find out the nature of adolescents thoughts and feelings towards sex education in relation to information given by parent, teachers, and other media.
  • To determine the extent to which gender, age grade and residence influence learner’s thought and feeling towards sex education.

Research Questions

The study sets out to examine or unravel the following research questions:

  1. What is the nature of adolescents’ thoughts and feelings towards sex education?
  2. What is the nature of adolescents’ thoughts and feelings towards sex education in relation to information given by parents, teachers, peers and other media?
  3. How do the following variables influence the thoughts and feelings of adolescents towards sex education:
  • Age
  • Resident
  1. To what extent do students favour the teaching of sex education in schools?
  2. In what ways can sex education be effectively promoted among adolescents in schools?

Scope of the Study

In any study, the scope is the area in which the research work is focused on or going to be carried out as a centre for the study.

The smaller the scope, the more manageable the study will be in terms of available resources, time, energy and intellectual materials.

The scope of this study is some selected secondary schools in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State.  Reasons being that:

  1. Money and time constrain which would not enable the researcher to travel very far and wide for gathering information in respect of the project topic, hence the scope in Owan West.
  2. The researcher hails from Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State and as a result, it will be easier for her to gather information because she is familiar to most of the children within the locality sampled.

Definition of Terms

The study deals with adolescent attitude towards sex education.  There are three concepts involved in this study that need to be unpacked, namely; attitudes, adolescents and sex education.

Attitude is a disposition of respond favourably or unfavourably.  In other words, attitudes are the thoughts and feelings that encourage someone to act as if he/she likes or dislike something.  According to Coom (1996) an attitude is a learned predisposition to respond to people, objects or institution in a positive or negative way.

Adolescent can be described as the period between the later stage of childhood and early stage of adulthood (Health Foundation of Ghana, 2004).

Adolescent therefore refers to boys and girls who falls within this stage or period, between the ages of 10 and 17 or the second decade of life.

Sex education is an openness, about sex in society where teachers at schools, parents at home and the department of education have to listen to communication and provide the knowledge about sex education to the adolescents.  Sex education simply refers to the systematic attempt to promote the healthy awareness in the individual on matters of his or her sexual development, functioning behavior and attitudes through direct teaching.

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