Sexual knowledge and practice of adolescent learners in a rural South African school
Background: Premature sexual activity has become a norm in South African society, often resulting in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Occurrence of premature sexual activity is related to insufficient education, gender inequal- ities, household poverty and place of residence. The Stepping Stones project uses a 10-session programme to educate learners about relationships, HIV-prevention and teenage pregnancy. The purpose was to measure and describe learners’ sexual knowl- edge and activities in a rural technical secondary school in North-west Province, South Africa.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey. Questionnaires were distributed to learners in grade 8 to 12. Descriptive statistics was used in analysis.
Results: Seventy-nine questionnaires were analysed. Despite a young sample, 26.6% were sexually active and 24.1% engaged in sexual activity. The mean age for first-time sexual intercourse was 15.2±2.3 years. The use of contraceptives was low (41.2%) and participants reported difficulty in talking to partners about condom use (54.8%). Almost half (45.5%) of the participants had never heard of STDs. Participants expressed a need to use social media as a sex education tool (12.3%). The primary source of information was from school-based programmes (58.0%).
Conclusion: Findings point to unsafe sexual practice of learners at a school in rural South Africa, even from an early age. This concern is accompanied by the occurrence of low levels of sexually-related knowledge. The learners would benefit from contin- ued implementation of the Stepping Stones programme. Implementation could be improved by incorporating social media and emphasising gender equality and negotiation skills in sexually vulnerable situations.
Keywords: Sexual knowledge; adolescent learners; South Africa.
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