Students at Hung Vuong High School attending a sex education programme
Many health professionals say that a number of unwanted teenage pregnancies can be blamed on insufficient knowledge of reproductive health.
Recently, a 10th grade school girl, in the southern province of Ben Tre, suddenly went into labour after one of her classes.
In cases where the girl is under age, the police are required to conduct investigations.
Many parents have been shocked to learn of their daughters' pregnancy, having believed that they were aware of their daily activities.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, from HCM City Mother's Club, said that a lack of education is at fault for such incidences.
“I’ve travelled around the city for three years providing sex-ed courses, and one thing I've noticed is the overwhelming lack of knowledge on the subject,” she stated.
Thuy said that she knew of cases where female primary schools students refused to take scheduled after-lunch naps because they feared that sperms from their classmates might 'infect' them. This, Thuy said, was a direct result of incomplete education.
“Instead of providing students with spearhead and full gender education, schools just do it cursorily and rush to take temporary methods to deal with unexpected consequences,” she noted.
Many parents are still qualmish to directly talk to their children about this topic, adding to the situation.
“Parents should be the first to introduce their children to the subject in an appropriate way. When the children are ready to learn, it is up to the parents to give guidance, whether in the form of books or direct talks. Frankness is the issue here. Avoiding the subject leads to bad consequences," she said.
Doctor Do Hong Ngoc, former Director of the Centre for Propaganda on Health Education in HCM City, emphasised for proper education when children reach the appropriate age. He suggested that the topic should be brought up by the children themselves, which would give an opportunity for parents to talk honestly. He added that parents should pay attention for any opportunity to have these discussions. Weddings and births, he said, might provide the perfect circumstances, however it is ultimately up to the parents.
“Parents should not avoid questions. They should be prepared to answer natural questions, instead of just waiting. The other scenario is to wait for them to find out by themselves," she said.
She attributed that families, schools and the community should coordinate to ensure a comprehensive education for children.
Nguyen Vu Nguyen, General Director of the Training Centre for Asia-Pacific Young Talents, suggested that adults may be the ones in need education as to how to speak to their kids.
“Even though children are the target for sexual education, they are not in the position to decide what they learn, or from whom. This means that parents and educators need to find an appropriate way to educate children about their own bodies," Nguyen said.
He suggested that adults should be sensitive to the curiosity of children and adolescents with their own changing bodies and feelings, and that embarrassment should be taken out of the equation.
Nguyen added that sexual education, with its emphasis on theory, often does not keep up with the natural curiosity of young people.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy providing gender education consultancy for students
Doctor Do Hong Ngoc