The National Statistics Institute has as of late made
public a series of worrying data. Accordingly, of the reported 200,000 births
in 2019, more than 700 have placed girls younger than 15 center-stage. Almost
18,000 of those births have been by mothers aged 15 to 19. Under
the circumstances, at the level of the European Union, nearly a quarter, 23 per
cent, of the underage mothers are from Romania. Such statistics should not come
as a surprise, though. They confirm the occurrence of a plight the Romanian
society has had to face for quite some time now. One of the causes of that
plight is the lack of sexual education, even though it has been included in an
optional course labeled Education for health. The course has been taught for
many years now, as early as the 1st grade. Optional courses are
taught by teachers, but in certain cases such courses are taught by specialists
working for several non-governmental organizations, NGOs. "Youngsters for
youngsters" is one such organization. For almost 30 years now, "Youngsters for Youngsters"
has been involved in promoting education for health among the pupils of
Romania. Adina Manea is the president of "Youngsters for Youngsters".
"If we speak about the programs run by 'Youngsters for Youngsters' , we work with high school pupils for the clear
reason that we need to cover such a shortage in our national education system.
In high school, at the age of 15, 16, 17 or thereabouts, statistics at national
level has revealed that for many years now that is the age when adolescents
begin their sex life, so it is important for them to know all these things
before they start having sex. But we also speak to them about self-knowledge
and communication, we speak about values, about decisions, about responsible
patterns of behavior, about how we communicate...Then we broach the issue of
contraception and obviously, the HIV prevention and what happens with the
The law has taken effect since 2014, yet the number of
those who took that Educ Health, Education for Health, course is still very
limited. For instance, in 2019, a mere 140,000 pupils, that is 4.6% of the
number of pupils all told, registered for the course. And also in 2019, an
initiative to change Law 272 of 2004 on the protection and promotion of child's
rights was presented before Parliament. By and large, changes pertain to
replacing the notion of "sexual education" with that of "sanitary education.".
The prospective changes to the law also stipulate that the parents' and the
children's legal representative's consent be mandatory, so that schools can run
sanitary education programs. Both these changes are in no way auspicious, or at
least that's what some of the civil society representatives believe.
"Introducing such a phrase, 'the
parents' mandatory consent' in a child law is an issue of overregulation. The
Education Ministry, for everything happening in school, has specific
methodologies regulating everything. Both the curriculum pertaining to the core
stuff, that is the mandatory disciplines, and the optional ones, such as the
Educ Health. This optional Education-for-health course is taught by members of
the teaching staff, it is not being taught by people from outside the system.
Yet at the same time, school are entitled to carry their own protocols with
non-governmental organizations they check, they know and which they trust. All
that entails the parents' consent since nobody from outside the school can
teach there without the parents' consent."
Adina Manea, alongside other representatives of the
civil society, also shares the opinion that the label "sanitary education" has no longer been in use
in Romanian for quite a long time now. Yet there's more to it than that. The
courses and activities "Youngsters for youngsters" run in schools are not
limited to the basics of reproduction alone, they tackle such topics as
pregnancy and infection prevention, these are pieces of information that could
also be useful for the parents.
"According to statistics, we can see
that in Romania, the adults, that is children's or pupils' parents, could
benefit from such courses as they do not know enough information they can dispatch
to their children. A possible hindrance of that is the fact that such kind of
education is basically run the family. Which is fine! It should be done in the
family quite all right! But there where the family doesn't know how to do that,
is unable to do it or simply doesn't exist, what are we supposed to do?"
But there where the family does exist and gets involved
in the pupil's life, what is the parents' take on this issue, that of replacing
"sexual education" with another phrase, "sanitary education" ?Iulian Cristache is the
president of the Parents' Association Federation.
"It is true that such a label has
prompted parents to be reluctant, which includes us, the Parents' Association
Federation, sharing the belief that it would better to speak about education
for health which should indeed included a sexual education module. No doubt
about it, sexual education must be there, yet it should be taught, of course,
according to the pupil's age. Teaching sexual education in primary school is
one thing, doing that for the middle school is something different, while
teaching it in high-school is a totally different thing. But all things
considered, we definitely need sexual education because we have a lot of girl
children with children. Sadly we are at the top of the table in Europe as
regards this chapter as well and we really need that kind of education."
As for the legislative change initiative, the Parents' Association Federation has not been invited to take part in consultations.
"We haven't been co-opted. I
purposefully turned up for the parliamentary commission, so we were there. Our
take on that is known, we sent a written version of it and we had press
releases of that. They didn't want us there but we did go there, still. You
know what they say;" If you don't want us, we want you.". We only did our duty,
from this point of view. All thigs considered, it's true there is some sort of
reluctance to that, since there are a great many parents who deem sexual
education a taboo topic, which is in no way normal."
According to the Parents' Association Federation, the
current Education-for-health optional course ought to be encouraged to a much
"Unfortunately, if parents are not
informed about that and if the principal continues to view the optional courses
simply as a means to add up to the teaching load for part of the staff, then
there's nothing we can do about it. The key prerequisite is to consider, when
it comes to education for health, taking that sexual education module. We have
examined the curriculum, and saw it was very well adapted to suit the current
needs. So I don't think changes that still need to be made are substantial any
more. And speaking about the new project, yes, the teaching staff should indeed
include professionals capable of teaching these things. There are the Biology
teachers, but there should also be trained nurses, there should also be
physicians from the family planning offices. We do need professionals, so much
so that information should be correctly dispatched without however being
At present, the initiative to change Law 272 of 2004
has been again sent to Parliament. We recall the President has refused to