Removing sex education program from the national curriculum is a big step backwards in Egypt. People should have access to education in a holistic way. However, Egypt’s education ministry has instructed schools not to teach lessons on reproduction and propagation methods, fertilization genetics, and anatomical illustrations of the male and female reproductive systems.
In respect to the above arguments, the Ministry of Education compelled teachers to disregard chapters on these subjects in existing biology textbooks, and new textbooks have been printed that omit the lessons. Accordingly, the revisions, according to the independent weekly Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, affect students between the ages of 12 and 17. Besides, the paper quoted a ministry source as saying the deleted materials would be replaced by teacher-led classroom discussions that "incorporate the latest information on the subject from sources other than school textbooks."
In fact as the government has decided to remove these lessons from the official curriculum, this presently makes the biggest setback in nearly two decades for civil society organizations working to improve public knowledge on reproductive health. Definitely the outcome of this removal of program will lead to the proliferation of misconceptions about sex, marital disharmony and sexual harassment and even the prevalence of STD.
In Muslim countries, and particularly in Egypt, sex is always a very sensitive topic. This because society feels discomfort with discussing matters related to sexuality. But this has impeded efforts to address health issues and control spiraling population growth. This is actually the way of fostering conservative and religious trend that is putting piety and propriety ahead of people’s health and rights. Egyptian religious authorities have rejected the idea of educating school students about safe sex and STDs. This has also happened with the Catholic Church for a long period but finally, the Pope has allowed the use of condoms for safe sex.
In their context, when this course was being taught, it dealt with morality and behavior in the context of abstinence until marriage and fidelity. If we look at the practical way, I think for them sex could be discussed in the classroom but it might have been presented in a religious or biological context without ever exploring its social and psychological dimensions. And normally this hinders people's understanding of the reality of sexual education. Teaching about sex does not mean to involve people in sexuality, but rather to help them get right information about it and so, they can avoid diseases related to it.
Conversely, some studies have revealed that Egyptians, particularly young women, are poorly informed about sex. This means that when it comes to reproductive health and safe sex practices, they get embarrassed. The reason for this is that most of them lack basic knowledge on anatomy, reproductive functions and STDs. Men seem more informed about this issue than women. And this is what explains the high prevalence of women contaminated with HIV/AIDS in this Arab country.
We know that Egypt is one of the five Arab countries that have included reproductive health in the public school curriculum. Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Bahrain teach basic sex education to secondary school students. In Lebanon, only private secular schools provide any instruction. Now as this program has been deleted on schools curricula, dire consequences are expected in the future. This will probably lead the youth to seek information from non-scientific and unauthentic sources. Others will learn about sex from their peers, the Internet and even pornography movies.
We wonder if, as this program has been now cancelled, Egyptian media will be given room to teach the population instead of schools. Probably no. The role of the media in educating the public on reproductive health is of paramount importance and it should not be neglected. What is true is that there will raise a problem among the uneducated people. They are often unable to discern the quality of the information being presented. In other words, this means that facts and sound advice about sex-related issues are lost among the scores of programs in which unqualified doctors and religious clerics dispense subjective or fallacious opinions.
If the Egyptian government is not keen on dispensing sexual education in its schools, it should at least know that people and students in particular need accurate information about this issue. Thus, the government could even give it as extracurricular activities. In order for education to reach all the grassroots, it requires schools involvement.