No more sex-education
They are listed among the cohorts with the fastest growing HIV infection rate in the Caribbean, but impoverished 13-19 year olds at two of the six children's homes, implicated in a damaging sex-education scandal this year, will not be taught any further lessons in managing their sexuality.
It will be to the detriment of the children, but Susan Frazer, director of St John Bosco and the Alpha Boy's Children's home, said implementation of such programmes must be weighed against the backlash of public embarrassment, controversy, and legal implications that staff and children at her institutions have undergone in recent months. And the backlash is far greater, she said.
"There will not be any as far as I am concerned," said Frazer, curtly, yesterday. "I don't do anything right now. Anybody calls and wants to do something with the children, I say 'no, go to the Ministry [of Youth] and ask the minister's permission. I am not stepping out on any limb."
After 40 years of doing what I'm doing and giving care to the same children, all of a sudden, I am an inept administrator who is unable to make an intelligent decision about something that is either good or not so good for the children," argued Frazer. "I have given a lifetime of service to children who are too difficult for everybody else to manage, and whose parents have thrown them away. After 40 years, I will not risk that."
Frazer spoke to The Gleaner after hearing that findings of a probe into the sex-education programme - which was said to have exposed minors, between November 2013 and May this year to inappropriate and unapproved sex material - were made public. Up to late yesterday afternoon, Frazer said she had still not seen a copy of the report which had reportedly been in the hands of Youth Minister Lisa Hanna, since July.
Frazer yesterday maintained that the programme was not only relevant but important for children, especially the vulnerable youngsters at the nation's children's homes, who are already sexually active or who have been victims of sexual offences. She welcomed a release
from human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) on Monday which defended the programme. Frazer said, however, that she is befuddled as to why JFJ had apologised about the programme in the first place.
JFJ Sets Record Straight
According to the JFJ release titled, 'Jamaicans for Justice Sets the Record Straight', "the purpose was to equip children with accurate and comprehensive information and life skills they could use to protect themselves against abuse, risky behaviour and contraction of HIV."
"Sex education for children is an emotionally charged subject. Many adults seem to think that if children are not taught sex education, they will not have sex. Regardless of adult opinion, many Jamaican children have sex before the legal age of consent of 16," the release stated.
Frazer said Jamaicans need to change this way of thinking.
"The issue of sex, homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and all of that is like a danger zone; you don't go there, you don't talk about it [in Jamaica]. But our children are the ones that could die of AIDS if they don't know what not to do," she said, emphasising that the material used in the programme was pulled from resources deemed fit for usage by other state entities.
She said that in addition to the public embarrassment, the scandal has further eaten away at her institution's viability, considering that an exorbitant sum of money was used to secure attorneys to defend the children's homes.
"All of us in the children's homes that have been affected have gone about our business, doing our work and looking after the same children day in and day out," said Frazer.
"No one has called to say 'Gee, this' or 'Gee, that'. 'Do you need any help or how are you doing financially?' We haven't made a big fuss; we haven't started blocking roads or anything. Our job is to take care of the children an that is what we are doing," she said.