Parents, teachers say no to condoms

Carol Martindale,

Added 02 March 2011

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Teachers and parents are saying no to the distribution of condoms in schools. Heads of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados National Council of Parent Teachers Association are totally opposed to the idea of condoms in schools, noting it was not the correct approach to tackling early sex among students. The issue was raised by regional educator Virginia Albert-Poyotte, who said she supported calls for the distribution of condoms in schools to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. President of the BUT Karen Best, however, said they would never support any move to put condoms in schools. In fact, she said the issue has never been raised, nor discussed at BUT meetings. Speaking as second vice president of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) she said the issue was never discussed there either. “The BUT will never support it. The school is a place to go to be educated, not to be provided with condoms,” she said, strongly. Instead, Best, said education programmes highlighting the consequences of early and unprotected sex, as well as a focus on abstinence, need to be ongoing in schools. “I would never support putting condoms in schools. We have to focus on educating our children. We have to move some of the programmes from the television to places like Facebook and use that medium to reach our young people. We must keep the message of abstinence out there” she said. Rhonda Blackman, who is head of the umbrella body of parent teachers associations, questioned the message that officials would be sending if condoms were indeed placed in schools. “Education is the key to fighting HIV/AIDS. We need to educate our students. Yes, some of our students are sexually active but the distribution of condoms is not the answer. The distribution of condoms is the symptom, we have to treat the cause,” she added. Blackman believes age-appropriate education is necessary, noting that in primary schools there is already a focus on health education, which also looks at HIV/AIDS. The president said guidance counselors in secondary schools, in particular, also need to play their role. “I also suggest the development of a committee where we have young people to do some peer tutoring in schools. If you get young people to speak out it would help drive home the message. We need to recognize that peer influence matters. ” she added. Blackman said young people needed to be educated on the dangers of unprotected sex. “If we distribute condoms we are saying it’s ok to have sex. It is a double standard. We need to preach the message of abstinence,” she said. She said she has already received feedback from some parents who are saying “no way” to condoms in schools. Antigua’s Education minister Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro also added her voice and disagreed with the suggestion. “The distribution of condoms in schools will certainly not be a part of any policy in Antigua & Barbuda. The ministry will never endorse any policy of giving condoms to children,” Quinn-Leandro said. Albert-Poyotte, who is also the coordinator of the Castries-based Education International educator, in raising the issue last weekend, said, “We are promoting abstinence for students as best as we can, but given the situation with our young people it is one thing to preach, but another thing to practice, and therefore we have to give them the alternative which is the use of condoms”. carolmartindale@nationnews.com

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