Sex education is essential for sensitising children and can hold the key to checking the rising crime graph against women, Leila Seth, the country’s first woman chief justice, told an audience comprising students, teachers and principals on Friday.
Advocating compulsory sex education in schools, Seth said education must play a greater role in dispensing the curiosity and confusion of children. “Proper sex education is very important and a must in every school in the country,” she said at the 178th Founder’s Day service of La Martiniere for Boys.
Sunirmal Chakravarthi, the principal of La Martiniere for Boys, said inviting Seth, who he described as “the epitome of an Indian woman”, as chief guest was his school’s way of honouring womanhood. “Seth is… very successful professionally as well as a loving wife, mother and grandmother,” he said.
Known to speak her mind, Seth had, on an earlier visit to the city this year, urged schoolchildren to be vocal and fight for justice in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape case. On Friday, she iterated the importance of being good citizen, adding that what a child learns in school and at home goes on to shape his character. “People don’t know what is right and wrong these days. So to improve things and help children have the right perspective every school should have sex education,” she said.
Principals of city schools Metro spoke to, while agreeing on the importance of sex education, stressed the need for proper training to impart the right lessons.
Devi Kar, the director of Modern High School for Girls, and Terence Ireland, the principal of St. James’ School — both of who were part of the audience at Atmodaya Bhavan — underlined the need for “the right kind of teachers”.
“Sex education is important, especially from middle school. Already, most schools impart life-skill training. Sex education can be a part of it, but we… need trained teachers who can handle the issue and sensitise students properly,” Ireland said.
Agreed Kar. “I strongly feel sex education should be a part of every school’s curriculum. In Modern High, sex education is imparted as part of value education. I get queries from parents of even Class V girls wanting such discussions in school. With the rise in crime against women, it is as important to sensitise boys. Just like we teach martial arts to girls, we should train boys too to handle their sexuality and respect women. In our senior classes we also talk about respecting people with alternative sexual preferences,” she said.
Mahadevi Birla World Academy holds weekly sessions with students and parents to sensitise them. “We make girls of classes XI and XII sit with their parents when we sensitise the parents every Monday,” said principal Anjana Saha. “We have started taking in boys at the primary level, so it is necessary to sensitise about good touch and bad touch. We hope parents will make the girls conscious and comfortable with their body.”
Saha said it was best for schools to address children’s curiosity instead of “students satisfying them from other sources”.
Anusree Ghose, the principal of Delhi Public School-Ruby Park, said the school holds separate workshops or boys and girls from Class V to ensure that teachers, rather than the Internet, answer their queries. “We talk to them about their body, hormonal changes….”
Psychiatrist J.R. Ram stressed the only way to tackle misconceptions and prejudices is sex education, which can begin as early as from Class II. “Sex education is not just talking about sex and sexuality. It is a very broad subject and should be made a part of value education. It should include discussions on HIV, physical intimacy, relationships and several other issues pertaining to adolescents. Only when we clear the cloud in a child’s mind will he start looking at things from the right perspective and with maturity and dignity,” he said.