Māori communities want best sexuality education for children
Māori communities want the very best sexuality education for their children, and they want Māori cultural values to underpin those programmes.
Te Puāwai Tapu Chief Executive Alison Green agrees with other sector specialists, such as Family Planning, that an evidence-based cross-sectoral action plan, such as that recommended by the recently-released Health Select Committee would make a difference to New Zealand’s high rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
‘Without exception, schools that are teaching in the Māori language want to partner with organisations like ours to develop quality sexuality education programmes. The Māori families we work with are very, very keen. They want programmes that teach good sexual health as an ordinary part of growing up,’ Ms Green says.
She says myths abound that Māori communities want their children to have lots of babies and have them young. On the contrary, Ms Green says Māori parents want their children to succeed, in school, in the workplace, and as Māori members of whānau (wider family), hapu and iwi (tribe).
‘Each child that succeeds is a success for the whole family, and the tribe. Māori parents want their children to stay at school, make good choices about looking after their bodies, keeping safe from STIs, and when they have children.’
But progress advancing sexuality education programmes is slow. Hampered by heavy teaching workloads, even the keenest schools back away from taking on the extra work required to produce sexuality education programmes and lesson plans. Most teachers have had little or no professional development to help them plan and teach evidence-based sexuality education.
‘Recently, a group of Māori language teachers told us they could work with us in the Christmas break to make lesson plans and resources. They volunteered their holidays because they didn’t have time during the school year,” Ms Green says.
Te Puāwai Tapu commends these schools but wonders why sexuality education, an issue that is so important to Māori educational success, is relegated to the school holidays and voluntary effort.
‘All the evidence indicates that young Māori who know how to keep themselves healthy, safe and making good choices, are less likely to be teenage parents and more likely to stay at school and do well. Te Puāwai Tapu urges the education and health sectors to work closer together, share expertise, and pool resources and funding so that Māori children and families get the best start to life.’