Around 264,000 elementary school pupils in Kosovo have the option to learn sexual education in subjects such as biology or some other elective subjects. However, not all teachers teach the chapter about sexual education, although it is included in the curriculums designed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
K.SH., a fifth grade teacher past her forties, who wanted her name and the name of the school where she works to remain anonymous, admitted that she avoids teaching sexual education.
“There is a part of the book that is meant to teach fifth graders sexual education, but I personally neglected the topic. The reason is because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to explain the process in details, and I didn’t know how the pupils would react. I think that it is the responsibility of biology teachers and parents to explain that to children, not mine,” says K.Sh.
In 2004, The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport supported a research study regarding youth’s attitudes and habits concerning sexual knowledge, with 900 young individuals and 13 focus groups with 122 participants. One of the conclusions was that young individuals lacked information. The study suggests that work has to be done to improve the learning materials, and to increase the quality of the program content with alternative subjects about health. A year after the research study (2005/2006), a new elective subject was introduced to 100 schools in Kosovo. This was a sixth grade subject called “Life Skills,” with a special chapter on sexual education, called “What is Sexuality.”
The chapter begins with “sexual education is not related to having sexual intercourse” and that it deals with all aspects of human beings.
The chapter is focused on understanding sexual education, puberty and the changes that happen in the bodies of girls and boys in this period, teenager sexuality, how pregnancy happens, what contraceptives are, and what abortion is.
Although the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, in cooperation with UNICEF, added this subject to the curriculums over 10 years ago, there is no information showing how many schools respect this decision. The main reason is that “Life Skills” is an elective subject and the school staff has the option to decide for themselves whether they want to include it to their curriculum or not.
UNICEF gave free books to teachers and pupils after deciding to include the subject of puberty in school curriculums. The book was later published by the publishing house “Libri Shkollor.”
At the same time, UNICEF organized trainings for teachers of 500 schools from different towns and villages of Kosovo.
Vjollca Thaqi, a biology teacher at “Xhemail Mustafa” elementary school and one of the participants in the training, shares her experience.
“The training was held by the Ministry of Education, by trainers Hajrie Balidemaj and Besime Mikullovci for 3-5 days. I teach biology so it’s not a problem for me to teach this topic, but in the training there were teachers of biology that declared that they would not teach sexual education because they don’t feel comfortable with the topic,” says Thaqi.
She also teaches “Life Skills” to 9th grade students and says that the topic of sexual education is treated like all other topics and that she doesn’t have a problem with detailed explanations.
“Although the students are shy at the beginning, they gradually participate in the discussion and don’t hesitate to ask questions. The subject, which is interesting to students of both genders, is taught to students who have just entered puberty, which is a very good age to start discussing the details of sexual education,” explains Thaqi.
Era and Erëza, 9th grade students of the same school, say that the subject “Life Skills” helped them learn sexual education.
“It was a very good way of raising awareness because we learned of many diseases that are caused due to carelessness during sexual intercourse, how to prevent them, and we also learned about the changes that happen to our bodies during puberty. We welcomed this subject. When it comes to the students, the majority treated it like a serious topic. However, there is a small number of students that didn’t take it well, but they too have understood the importance of sexual education,” says Era.
Both of them add that after getting the basic information regarding sexual education at school, it was easier for them to discuss this topic with their parents.
“We also discussed this topic with friends but never with correct information and it was mostly considered taboo,” says Erëza.
Shpresa Shala, principal of “Xhemail Mustafa,” says that their school pays special importance to teaching children the necessary information regarding sexual education.
“We don’t neglect sexual education in our school. It is taught by biology teachers but we begin the discussion starting in fifth grade with elementary teachers. Later, in higher grades, the school chose the elective subject “Life Skills,” which explains sexual education as one of the topics…,” says Shala.
Kosovo Agency of Statistics found that in 2015, in Kosovo there were 105 child marriages, ten more compared to 2014. Mostly they were girls 16-17 years old who married older men. In the same year, information officials of the University Clinical Center of Kosovo noted 20 girls who gave birth at 17 years old, 8 gave birth when they were 16 years old and 3 at 15 years old. On the other hand, according to the Infectious Diseases Ward at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo, in 2016, 33 patients were diagnosed with AIDS, while every year on average 2-3 new cases are discovered.