Undoubtedly when a teen becomes pregnant, their life is forever changed. The girls at the shelter are not in school, some are too young to legally work, and although I have heard most of them say they would like to go back to school, many would like to start working at a restaurant. This week while at Ser Joven, I was able to see how Ecuador is taking steps towards preventing teen pregnancies, and empowering students to better understand their bodies and make healthy choices. On Wednesday, I went with the head psychologist of Ser Joven to a high school where they were putting on a comprehensive sex education program. The psychologist is also a professor who teaches a class for students studying medicine at the university. In her course, she has incorporated somewhat of a practicum, where her students come with her to different high schools, and they are the ones to teach the high school students. The high school I visited had nine hundred students attending, and over two hundred college students teaching in different classrooms. The program was hands-on, and there was much laughing and movement coming from the classrooms. The program taught about sexuality, biology of the body, homosexuality, and prevention of STD’s and pregnancy, and included abstinence as a way of prevention. The program also taught about the emotional consequences of being sexually active, and how each student has their personal right over their bodies.
I really loved the utilization of college students as teachers for sex education. The classroom teacher is not supposed to be present during the program. Students are being empowered by young, “cool,” college students to know how their bodies work, and how to protect themselves in non-intimidating environment. I also learned that their practicum opens the college students’ eyes to a medical profession that is out of the hospital, where most hope to work, but there are limited job openings. Both the high school and college students benefit from the program, and it keeps the program costs low. Afterwards, the college students brought us posters, terms, and what they students wrote they learned from the program, as well as further questions the students had. The next two afternoons, I sorted through it all. The questions will be put into a database to be incorporated into future school programs. What the students learned will be given to the social worker at the school to assess how to further meet the student’s needs.
In the U.S., sex education programs are decided by state. In Ecuador, comprehensive sex education programs are being implemented by the government (through the foundation that Ser Joven is funded by). When talking with the psychologist, she said the government sees it as a way to protect the students. The parents do not need to sign a waiver for the program; the program is one time during the school year, on a school day. I am really grateful for the opportunity to see how Ecuador is working toward a solution to: lower teen pregnancies, lessen the amount of students contracting STD’s, while teaching students to understand how their bodies work. I was able to see how social workers can take a part in empowering students to make healthy choices, and inform students of how their decisions could drastically affect their lives and dreams.