The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday thumbed down a proposal by the National Youth Commission (NYC) to segregate teenage girls and boys in schools to supposedly curb the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy and control the spread of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
The proposal by NYC chair Ryan Enriquez is neither backed by research nor capable of addressing the root cause of these social problems, according to San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Bishop Roberto Mallari, who chairs the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education (CBCP-ECCCE).
“Teen pregnancies and HIV incidents are attributed not to the heterogeneity of students in the classroom but to the lack of thoughtful regard to values and formation at home, in communities and, in sad cases, in some classrooms,” Mallari said.
In a TV interview on Wednesday, Enriquez said there may be a need for girls and boys from Grades 7 to 12 to be segregated in school to address the increasing incidents of teenage pregnancy.
“Many gradeschool students already have girlfriends [or] boyfriends because they are classmates. If they have an activity that they have to finish at home, that’s where [sex] happens. They could easily become teenage [parents],” said Enriquez, a former Cavite provincial board member
Segregation, said Enriquez, will help reduce the “temptation” that comes from physical closeness. It would also allow for better discussions on sex, particularly on increasing HIV awareness, the NYC official said.
But the bishop disagreed.
Instead of segregating students by gender, Mallari said, schools should provide “more opportunities for focused engagements with adults and with community and church leaders” to discuss issues [related to teen pregnancy and HIV].”
What makes more sense, the CBCP official said, “is a multidimensional approach [in the way] schools look deeper into the different social problems, and contextualize them in curriculum and program implementation.”
Modes of transmission
Enriquez’s premise was also contradicted by a recent Department of Health (DOH) report on HIV, which noted that the main mode of HIV transmission is MSM, or males having sex with other males, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of all newly diagnosed cases.
Only 13 percent of cases, or 134, contracted HIV through male-to-female sex, while 26 percent (or 260) contracted the virus through sex with both male and female partners.
In June, the DOH said that of the 1,006 new cases of HIV, 296 are in the 15 to 24 age bracket.
From January 2014 to June this year, nearly 30 percent of the 51,925 recorded HIV cases, or 15,288, are age 15 to 24. In the same period, 136 cases are age 15 and below.
Based on a National Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2017, 9 percent of girls age 15 to 19 gave birth that year.
The 2017 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey showed that 57 percent of female students were forced to drop out of school because of “family matters,” referring mainly to early marriage or pregnancy.
In August, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said teenage pregnancy in the country had become a “national social emergency” and that P24 billion to P42 billion in women’s lifetime earnings had been lost due to early childbearing.
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CBCP won’t say amen to boy-girl segregation