6-20 Sex ed in Catholic School

For the last year or so, I’ve been teaching health classes at Melsisi. Health includes things like 3-kaen kakae, which is the nutrition guidelines laid out by the Vanuatu government (they make WAY more sense than the food pyramid. The idea is there are three food groups: starch, protein and veggies/fiber. Eat every one of them at every meal.), hygiene and sanitation, causes of disease and sex ed. Of course, the thing people stick on is sex ed.

I started teaching for a couple of reasons. The first one was to help out Jason and the school. Jason cuts his class in half because he has 3-6 computers (depending on their state of repair) and about 25 students per class. To get all of them near the computers, he halves the class and takes half into the lab while the other half stay in their classroom. The half that stay in their classroom are supposed to have a study period, but I’ll let you guess how well that was going. So, I thought I’d stay in the classroom with the students and maybe teach them something in the process. The second inspiration for this was more personal. I got frustrated trying to teach people who wouldn’t turn up or weren’t interested. I figured, teenagers love to learn about sex and they have to be in school. Perfect, I’ll teach sex ed. And finally, when I did a health survey in 2010, the knowledge of STIs was atrocious. I got told earnestly that STIs come from having sex outside. I was hoping their would be a trickle up effect, that by teaching the kids, the parents would learn something.

I’ve been teaching the kids for a year now. I started part way through first term last year and continued through the year. At the beginning of the year, I went back and started again. It hasn’t been easy and teaching in a classroom isn’t my cup of tea, but it has had its rewards. I do like teenagers and all their drama and problems crack me up. I think sex education is important, especially in this society which is so repressed and where it is hard to get good, reliable information about things.

When the Melsisi school council had their meeting, they decided I was no longer allowed to teach in Melsisi. Of course, rather than asking me for a curriculum or discussing this with me, they made the decision while the principal wasn’t present and then told him two days later. He told Jason, while I was teaching, who then had to tell me. By the time it got to me, the message consisted of, “You shouldn’t teach here next term.”

I wasn’t really happy about that. I wrote a nice, long letter to the school council, in which I laid out the reasons for my teaching and the curriculum I was teaching as well as requested a meeting. Well, the chairman of the school council didn’t come back to Melsisi for a month so the principal couldn’t pass on the letter. I invited myself to the meeting at the beginning of this term. Really, I discussed things with the principal and he and I agreed that it would make sense for me to come. So, I did.

I laid out my case. I feel like I spoke well and laid out a good argument. I asked for the decision on Tuesday (they should have given me a letter on Monday). I was told by the principal that they would give me a letter. I pointed out to him that if I was going to teach I should be teaching in an hour. He told me to wait for the letter. I’ll take that as I’m not teaching anymore.

I’m upset and annoyed. I didn’t like the teaching but I was doing my best and I believe that what I was teaching is really important information. I believe that the students have a right to know what family planning is and why it is important to use condoms. I don’t think this is the right decision for the students and I think the way they went about it was quite crap.

On the other hand, the students are their children and I’m glad to see them taking ownership for something in the school. Maybe it can extend to other things and improve the school.

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