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Educator against condoms in schools


Carol Martindale

Educator against condoms in schools

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“I am against the distribution of condoms in schools”.
In her own words, that’s the position of regional educator and coordinator in the North America Caribbean region for Education International Virginia Albert Poyotte.
She is clear and doesn’t waiver on her stand.
Albert Poyotte, who has been a teacher for the last 32 years, was recently quoted in media across the region as saying that she supported the call for condoms in schools.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and what this one time principal believes in.
In a recent telephone hook-up from St Lucia, the educator dealt with the issue, clearing up misunderstandings and misinterpretations, and put her cards on the table as far as the contentious and sometimes controversial issue of condoms in schools was concerned.
She believed it was necessary particularly since education officials and Caribbean nationals have been airing their views on the matter and taking issue with the comment attributed to her in a recent interview.
In Barbados, for example, some Barbadians believed there should be condoms in schools as a way to help protect the sexually active young people. Others disagreeds strongly, saying children were in school to learn, not to have sex.
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers Karen Best and president of the National Council of Parent Teachers Association, Rhonda Blackman were strongly opposed to the distribution of condoms in schools.
Antigua’s Education minister Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro also added her voice and said the distribution of condoms in schools would certainly not be a part of any policy in that country.
Albert Poyotte was not surprised at the reaction from her colleagues in the Caribbean, because that too was her position.
She is a firm believer in educating students and equipping them with the best information they can have.
“Our responsibility is to educate students and they are to act responsibly. I am against the distribution of condoms in schools. Our responsibility as educators is to educate and give the best information as possible – the rest is left to children and parents,” she said.
Part of that education focuses on the message of abstinence. Teachers are relentless, she said, in preaching this to students.
“We want students to focus on their studies and their future and delay sexual activity until they are mature. We strongly advocated abstinence among students. They are students and we don’t expect them to engage in sexual activities. We don’t expect them to act like adults”.
However, Albert Poyotte says she is not under any misguided notions that all young people were abstaining. On the contrary, in fact, because she said there were some bold and brazen young people who “let you know up front and to your face” that they are having sex.
For these adventurous teens, the talk of the use of condoms as a preventative measure from contracting HIV/AIDS, guarding from sexually transmitted diseases, and teenage pregnancies must be broached, she believes.
“We as educators give the best knowledge. I am fully aware that many of the youth may choose to be adventurous and may not decide to abstain from sexual activity. In discussions with students some say they do have sex. We can’t pretend it doesn’t happen,” she said.
The educator recognized that the question arising, however, has always been whether or not students should have access to condoms and if they should be distributed in schools.
She referred to conference in Jamaica some years ago where the issue was on the agenda for discussion. “There was a long debate on it. The position taken was that our responsibility is to educate students, not to take on the responsibility for the distribution of condoms. I agree with this position,” said.
Albert Poyotte, who was also a principal for 14 years, said her position was one where children needed to be educated on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
“Prevention is better than cure. Our emphasis is on prevention. In looking at prevention the best target group is students,” she said. The educator said it was not all bout “chalk and talk” but also drama to drum home the pertinent points.
The past president of the St Lucia Teachers’ Union said there was a five-year training programme for teachers aimed at safeguarding the youth, which focused not only on education for all, but also HIV/AIDS, especially prevention.
The $10 million (Euros) programme, which ended last year after being conducted in 12 Caribbean countries, also emphasized abstinence among young people.
She, however, acknowledged there was only so much teachers could do.
“We educate, we maintain close contact with parents and we educate parents as best as we can too. We approach the wider society,” she said, saying the aim is to ensure that all children had access to education.
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