By Joseph Maina
Kenya’s Conference of Catholic Bishops said it opposes the sex education content in the country’s primary education curriculum, citing flaws in the curriculum’s “permissive” framing and design.
The bishops have further said the curriculum’s content would contribute to the rate of teen pregnancies and exacerbate moral decline in the East African country.
KCCB said in a statement that the introduction of comprehensive sex education in basic education learning materials is antithetical to what was previously touted in the competency-based curriculum, which is currently taught in Kenyan schools.
“Introduction of comprehensive sex education defies the narrative sold to Kenyans that the competency-based curriculum is based on values and that any education given would be age-appropriate,” said Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru of the Diocese of Wote, who is also the chairman of KCCB’s Commission for Education and Religious Education.
The Catholic Church opposes contraception and deems it “intrinsically evil.” In his 1968 papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”) St. Paul VI described contraception as “every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.”
The KCCB also said its focus is on what imparts knowledge, values and life skills to the children in preparation for the future. The bishops said that comprehensive sex education goes contrary to this broad objective.
“Comprehensive sex education seeks not to brighten any child’s future but, in our view, it exposes them to disruption from the widely celebrated education goals,” said the Rev. Mark Kadima, who serves as vice chair of the KCCB Commission for Education.
Terming it a “backdoor introduction of comprehensive sex education” in the country, the bishops stated that they had assessed various learning materials and noted disturbing content, particularly in seventh grade books.
“Upon sampling a few books targeted at teaching grade 7 learners, we have noted a worrying trend in terms of the content,” Kariuki said. “For instance, the grade 7 learners’ book titled ‘Top Scorer Health Education’ … and grade 7 teachers’ guide titled, ‘Health Education in Action’ by Oxford University Press.”
In their statement, the bishops said the permissive framing of the curriculum and the design itself had allowed room for exploitation and abuse by publishers. Citing the offensive chapters in the books, the bishops also stated that the content was tailored to create room for family planning and encouragement of the use of contraception to very young learners.
At least 15% of teenagers age 15 to 19 in Kenya have become mothers, according to statistics by the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.
Notably, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development — the statutory institution mandated with vetting and approving learning materials for basic and tertiary education — issued a disclaimer that the CBC does not advocate for comprehensive sex education. KICD has in the past resisted pressure from lobbyists to introduce CSE in Kenyan schools.
“The content is both explicit and inappropriate for learners at grade 7,” Kariuki said. “We observe that the said content is against the Ministry of Education’s policy that children should not be exposed to such explicit content.”
He added that the content would not only sexualize the learning environment for minors but also be contribute to the high rate of teen pregnancies and abortion.
“This is attributable to its failure to establish abstinence as expected standards for all children,” he added.
The bishops made the remarks during the eighth edition of the Catholic Schools Principals’ Association Conference held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The conference’s theme was “Catholic schools: Hubs of moral values & faith formation for the whole school community in respect for human dignity.”
Cautioning that reproductive health is a sensitive subject, the bishops urged the nation’s education authorities to consult with parents before the introduction of such sensitive content to the country’s learners. They further urged parents to exercise vigilance and flag content being passed on to learners through the education system. Parents were urged to look out for the types of materials that their children use in schools and any books that they are requested to buy for their children.
“We urge that the ministry moves with speed and initiates the removal … of the mentioned books and any other book in the market that contains similar content,” Kadima said.
Joseph Maina is a Kenyan journalist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Nairobi. For the past decade, he has served as a correspondent for various print and digital publications in his native Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa.
Produced in association with Religion Unplugged