Ammar Halabi – Sada Al Sham
The three conflicting parties that have control over Syria are all very careful when producing educational curriculums; however, their concern in that regard is not about providing knowledge to students as much as it is about making sure they promote themselves as a legitimate leading party in Syria in the minds of students, and making sure they spread their politics and ideologies.
With all this attention on politics in Syrian curriculums, there is an absence of any material that brings scientific and social benefits to students, especially students at a critical age.
The most prominent example for that is a curriculum for sex education, which should aim at providing students with safe, healthy and accurate information about their sexual life.
Absence of Sexual Awareness
In Syria, the Assad regime produced its own school curriculum to use in regime controlled areas, the national coalition of Syrian opposition and Syrian interim government have also produced a new curriculum to be used in opposition controlled areas, and finally the Kurdish self-administration as well produced its own curriculum for students in its cities. Each of those parties have tried to “brainwash” students with misleading political and historical information to appear in good standing in front of the students.
For a full week, Sada Al Sham has examined the three curriculums and observed all the books associated to each curriculum and did not find any information about sexual education in any of the curriculums; and due to the absence of a book that’s specifically for sex education, we had to examine all the books in all different subjects.
After this process of examination, no information on sex education was found. We did find some information about menstruation and masturbation, but they were addressed from a religious point of view, with information on how to cleanse oneself and avoid impurity.
This comes in a time when most countries across the world are providing their students with basic information about their sexual lives, to prevent them from following incorrect practices in this regard; this comes by introducing a “sex ed” curriculum, such as the case in most west European countries, where this curriculum has become as important as other curriculums like math, history and other subjects.
Syrians disagree on introducing sex ed in schools
Do you support introducing sex ed in schools?
Sada Al Sham asked a number of families in different Syrian cities if they support or agree introducing a sex ed curriculum to schools and providing such information to their children.
Ahmad Khattab, a resident of Izaz in Aleppo’s northern suburbs, has four children, a girl and three boys. When we asked him about teaching sex ed in schools, he refused the idea proposing some alternative solutions.
Khattab told Sada Al Sham “sex ed can be taught in schools but only in the secondary levels.” refusing the introduction of this topic to any younger ages.
Khattab added “introducing sexual information to children at a young age is wrong, because it will make them think of something that they don’t even know and that their bodies don’t need. For this reason, sex ed should start only at the secondary stage.”
For her part, Ghusoon, who has two children studying in the Syrian capital Damascus, refused having sex ed in schools, justifying her stance by saying that this will lead to invading the child’s private world and entering into some privacies that the children themselves cannot go into.
She said “my daughters are very shy; I don’t think they can handle discussing a sexual topic in front of their classmates even if the goal was purely scientific and beneficial.”
Ghusoon believes that the alternative solution is to introduce sexual education at home, indicating that no one other than the children’s parents is able to understand their sexual lives.
Some believe that sexual education should be taught to children at home, and reject introducing it in schools
Social researcher and psychologist Iman Qasem assured that the absence of sexual education in children’s lives will lead to negative consequences and the exposure of children to misleading sexual information.
Qasem told Sada Al Sham “the absence of sexual education in children’s lives will affect their sexual concepts, and their awareness and knowledge towards the sexual process.”
She added that children’s ignorance in basic sexual information will make them exposed to accepting any negative or incorrect thoughts about sexual life due to the absence of correct information, which means that children will easily accept any sexual information presented to them regardless of the source. Qasem also explained that accurate information is now not available on social media; they are replaced with pornography as an avilable source children seek to feed their curiosity about sexuality.
Adding that by seeking pornography as a source of information, children will form a misleading understanding of sexuality, which will destroy their sexual concepts, especially that pornography is often commercial and do not address sexuality in a scientific way.
Qasem concluded by saying “usually, when children are deprived of certain information, they tend to use their own means to obtain that information and compensate for that deprivation, based on the concept that says whatever is prohibited is more desired.” Accordingly, Qasem recommends introducing sex ed in schools and building children’s sexual awareness in front of their teachers and parents.
Society and Religion
For his part, head of Idleb’s educational directorate, which is associated to the ministry of education of the Syrian interim government, Yaseen Yaseen said “there should be no problems with introducing sex ed in schools, but we have to make sure it does not contradict our religious values, and social norms.”
Yaseen added to Sada Al Sham “it’s still too early to talk about introducing sex ed in schools, because this topic is very sensitive and should be studied and planned very well; especially that Syrian curriculums in the meantime are not ready to be finalized and changed due to the war situation in Syria.”
Yaseen also assured that the Syrian society has to be mentally and emotionally ready to welcome such a curriculum, and this requires time, effort and financial resources to study all considerations and prepare society to accept having their children learn this subject in school.
This human rights article was published in cooperation with the Canadian organization “Journalists for Human Rights”