The Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development is in the process of reviewing the school curriculum.
This is a good opportunity to create a cultural and religiously-sensitive age-appropriate sexuality education curriculum for Kenyan learners at primary and secondary school levels.
Several studies have recently been published showing that Kenyan youth are making their sexual debut while still very young.
The most recent one, the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014, reveals that many Kenyans aged between 15 and 18 years are having sex and too many of them do not have sufficient knowledge about HIV transmission and prevention.
On average, about two out of 10 boys and girls have their first sexual encounter by age 15, which rises to about five out of 10 by age 18.
Sadly, by age 15, three per cent of girls are already child-bearing and this rises to 40 per cent by age 19.
Another worrying statistic shows that knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention is below 50 per cent for youth aged 15-17 years.
In view of these statistics, it is important that Kenya consider incorporating age-appropriate sexuality education in the school curriculum.
There has been debate on the question of sexuality education, with stakeholders taking diverse positions on the concept of having it taught in Kenyan schools.
Their main argument has been that providing such information to school-going Kenyan youth will be like giving them a licence to engage in sexual activity.
However, research disapproves this argument. Indeed, some studies demonstrate that age-appropriate sexuality education programmes can help young people delay their sexual debut.
Some opponents argue that age-appropriate sexuality education is likely to lead the youth away from our culture and traditions.
This argument too, is not true as it is possible to create a culturally sensitive curriculum.
Studies show that school-going youth are engaging in sexual activity and rather than hide from this fact, we should provide them with age-appropriate knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health.
This knowledge will equip them with life skills, thereby shielding them from coercion, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.
Age-appropriate sexuality education is taught over several years, gradually introducing appropriate information consistent with the changing capacities of students.
It provides scientifically accurate, curriculum-based information about human development, anatomy, and pregnancy.
Also included in comprehensive sexuality education is information about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The truth of the matter is that, growing up in the information age, Kenyan youth are at risk of misinformation and exposure to plenty of inappropriate sexual content.
Many of them have access to mobile phones, the internet, and social media. Moreover, they have access to highly sexualised TV, print, and radio content.
By providing school-going youth with age-appropriate sexuality education, we will improve their chances of making informed choices about their sexuality.
We owe it to society to equip young people with knowledge that will help them avoid coercion, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.
Strategic investment in education can allow young people to claim their right to health and development and to make a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, thereby expanding their options for the future.
Dr Kamau is the country director, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung Kenya. [email protected]