Incorporating Sex Ed Into Am. Samoa School Curriculum Proposed

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Family Planning Clinic manager wants teen pregnancy rate reduced

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, April 22, 2014) – LBJ Medical Center’s program manager for the Family Planning clinic believes sex education, incorporated in health education, should be part of the public school curriculum.

Marilyn A. Pavitt-Anesi who also heads the division, says that data on teen pregnancy between 2011 and 2013 shows an increase of only point-three of one percent, but she believes there is more work to be done to bring these statistics down.

Asked if sex education — which is part of the high school curriculum in several U.S. states — is considered one way of reducing teen pregnancy, Pavitt-Anesi told Samoa News that she supports "having health education courses, which include sex education" but that is her own personal opinion.

Pavitt-Anesi said sex education can be taught in a manner that is culturally accepted, in order to get the right message across to teenagers.

She recalled that in 2012, Fagaitua High School seniors hosted a forum for politicians running for the local House race in the Eastern District and students noted at that forum that they want sex education as part of their school curriculum.

Pavitt-Anesi says that currently, health education is lumped together with PE, or physical education, but nothing in detail is taught dealing with health education and issues pertaining to sex education.

"The thing is, we need to tell these kids the facts… so they understand, because if we don’t, they will go on the internet looking for information. And just because it's on the internet doesn’t mean it's true," she said.

Pavitt-Anesi explained that today’s modern day technology — such as cell phones with texting and photo taking features — makes it easy for teens to access sites on the internet that may not have accurate information.

"And students also have access to iPads which can be used to obtain online information which may not be helpful to a teenager looking for answers," she said.

"In past years there was just one house phone, and the parents would hear the conversation of their kids and others. Kids were closely monitored," the Family Planning division head noted.

"But now, there are cells phones used by many teens and they don’t need to get their parent's permission to communicate with others via cell phone."

She also said there are many times when teenagers won't talk to an adult or parents on health issues, especially when it comes to dealing with the teen’s body and development of the body.

"And we’ve talk to them (the teenagers) at length — and the feed back is that ‘my parents don’t listen’ in the sense that they’re listening but not hearing," she recalled of what teens have told her office and the teen peer mentoring program.

"The parents talk down to them and tell them what to do. When a parent is busy and preoccupied, there is no time for the kids, and any discussion is delayed for a later time."

She also says that during their discussions with female teenagers, it was learned that a large number of them preferred to stay with a boy friend or have a boy friend.

"Maybe the boyfriend, is the only person who is listening to the girl, and no one else in the family," she said. "Of course the guy is going to listen because he wants something in return."

"For the boys, we talk to them about a number of issues including responsibility. We stress to them to have more respect for the girl as this is very important in the Samoan culture. And if the girl says no — that means no," she said.

Pavitt-Anesi said this is one of the reasons for their teen peer mentoring program, which makes it easy for teens to talk to each other and share what they can’t tell their parents or an adult.

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