Young people in Mozambique want to lead free and safe love lives

While sitting in a session on sexuality education at the Armando Emilio Guebuza school in Maputo we noticed how openly the students were talking about topics that are taboo in other spaces.

Their teacher, Vasco Nhamussa, said that “students want to talk about these topics, they are no longer taboo. The students are interested, and they seem to enjoy the conversations.” Vasco is one of the teachers that works closely with AMODEFA to run together information sessions on sex and relationship education.

Vasco Nhamussa, biology teacher at the Armando Emilio Guebuza school in Maputo. He is holding sexuality education classes. Sexuality education is not a stand-alone class in Mozambique, it is integrated in other subjects. The Ministry of Education is working on building up the capacity of teachers on sexuality education. They are facing challenges as the subject is still considered sensitive by many.
Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

4000 students attend Guebuza school and benefit from sex and relationships education. In grades 6 and 7 they are taught basic things, but from grade 8 they dive into many topics. Vasco talks with them about contraceptive care, HIV prevention and sexual pleasure – they discuss consent, how to set boundaries, how to avoid being in coercive relationships and how to protect themselves from violence.

“We are interested in learning about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) so that we grow up to be informed adults who take the right decisions. We are also here to learn how to protect ourselves from people who would abuse us” said one of his students. “We can lead a better life if we are informed” added another.

Leticia Figueredo, 17 years old, sat in on the sexuality education information sessions and asked very pertinent questions.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Sexuality education addresses the need to foster emotional and sexual intelligence and the capacity for healthy, intimate bonding and growth. Vital skills developed through sex and relationships education are particularly important in countries dealing with child marriage and teen pregnancies.

Since sex and relationship sessions started, the school has seen reduced numbers of unintended pregnancies – they had five to six pregnancies each year, but the number has now dropped to one or two. “Currently, I am not thinking about having children. After I finish school and get my degree, I can start planning having children” said a 13 years old student. A reduction has also been noted in the prevalence of STIs and HIV infections.

The classes are complemented by the fact that AMODEFA runs a youth-friendly clinic on the premises of the school. Students mainly come to the clinic to better understand the changes happening to their bodies and to receive free contraceptive care.

The AMODEFA youth-friendly clinic is right across from the school yard where sometimes they hold information sessions about sexual and reproductive health care.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

“We don’t want to see young people drop out of schools because of diseases of unintended pregnancies. We would like to have more ‘counselling corners’ in schools to make it as easy as possible for students to learn about SRH” said Arlinds Chaquiose from the Mozambican Ministry of Education.

“The benefits are not only limited to the students, but it also helps the community at large. There are people from the community who come as patients to the clinic” said Vasco.

Being able to replicate this success in other schools depends almost entirely on donors remaining committed to supporting sexuality and reproductive health and rights. People in Mozambique want access to family planning and want their children to stay in school and lead safe and happy lives.

Main Photo: Young AMODEFA activists running a sexuality education information session at the Armando Emilio Guebuza school in Maputo. The covered topics such as modern contraceptive methods, issues of pleasure and consent.

Photo credit: Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Article by Cosmina Marian/C2030E

Read the next blog in our series about family planning in Mozambique.