Sexuality education for young people in Zambia: How one teacher is building brighter futures for his students

Mubita Brian Mubita strides back and forth, weaving between wooden desks in a bright, sun-lit classroom. He speaks candidly to his students about the diagram he has pinned onto the blackboard - the body of a man and a woman. He asks them what happens when these two go through puberty. He smiles as he sees eager hands shoot up amongst a crowd of engrossed faces.

For Mubita, a primary school teacher in Zambia, science class does not just consist of periodic tables, zygotes and gametes – for him, the job is fulfilling a critical gap for his students – one that can help to save their lives. 

Mubita is teaching comprehensive sexuality education – a proven approach to increase a student’s knowledge about HIV and other health issues. The curriculum also helps to delay the age of their first sexual experience, decrease the number of sexual partners and frequency of sex, and increase the use of contraception, including condoms. 

Across Eastern and Southern Africa, the HIV pandemic still poses a critical threat to young people. In a recent study, over 52 per cent of new infections across the region are among young people. In Zambia alone, three young people become infected with HIV – two of which are girls – every hour (UNICEF, 2012). 

When speaking to Mubita, it is hard not to recognise the unwavering passion he holds for his work and the students he teaches. 

“There is an information gap that people are missing,” says Mubita. “Comprehensive sexuality education comes in to help close that gap. Learners are able to receive the right information that will equip them and give them the skills and knowledge to know who they are and how they should keep themselves safe.”

“Comprehensive sexuality education is a key that will help them achieve their dreams and achieve their goals.” 

The programme, which was first piloted in April 2014, in Zambia, will reach 1,750 000 students between the ages of 10 and 24 and train another 45,000 new and existing teachers about the curriculum over the next four years. 

“From the time I started teaching, the learners were shy, but once they saw openness and willingness in how we taught the lesson, they opened up and participated.” 

“The only thing I can hope for is that they are not just here to learn but to implement what they learn. 

… And they are eager to learn.”