Comprehensive Sexuality Education moving forward in Niue
In 2009 the Forum Education Ministers’ Meeting (FEdMM) identified HIV/AIDS as one of the most challenging issues for the education systems in the Pacific. The Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) also reflected the challenge of HIV prevention under Cross-Cutting Theme 6 reiterating its importance. UNESCO, on behalf of the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNICEF, presented an initiative at the FEdMM the following year to develop an HIV/AIDS Education programme in schools, which was subsequently endorsed.
In 2011 UNESCO, in collaboration with UNFPA, UNAIDS and SPC, initiated a consultation with 13 Pacific Island Countries and Territories to explore ways to strengthen HIV prevention and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Education in schools. A list of outcomes was reached which included the need to undertake an attitudinal survey to gauge principal, teacher, parent and student support for HIV prevention and SRH Education in schools. Nauru, Niue, Palau and Samoa participated in this survey the following year.
The survey reports for the four countries are now complete and about to be published pending final comments from countries. The first of the four countries to endorse this report is Niue. Niue has only one early childhood education facility, one primary school and one high school with between 150 and 200 students in total attending either the primary or the high school.
In May 2014 the Niue Government (via a cabinet endorsement of the attitudinal survey report) further mandated the Department of Education to teach HIV prevention and SRH Education in addition to the adoption of the New Zealand Physical and Health Education curriculum in 1995. The Niue Department of Education is now finalising a list of activities based on the recommendations of the survey report and will implement these in collaboration with UNESCO.
Based on the endorsement from the FEdMM (April 2014, Cook Islands), HIV prevention and SRH Education are now encompassed within the broader “Comprehensive Sexuality Education”. Niue has embraced this change and will develop a Comprehensive Sexuality Education module as part of their Physical and Health Education Curriculum.
The success in moving forward with Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Niue is clearly a result of proactive leadership in the education sector, a strong commitment from the Director General and the Education Minister, and the robust working relationship between the Department of Education and the Department of Health which fosters open communication in an environment where sensitive issues can be discussed.
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