Education Specialist for Science/health at Palau High School, Deborah Rebblued-Nagata, believes that since it is taboo to talk about sex in the society, parents are expected to be primary teachers of sex education.

While the talk about relationship and dating starts from the 6th grade in the school, information on sexual health is provided by the time high school starts, Reblued-Nagata said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US) 2015 report suggests that the percentage of high school students in total who have engaged in sexual intercourse from the grades 9-12th is 38% in which 51% comprises of male and 28% is female.

When teachers in schools hold up sessions on educating children about sexual health and abuses, the consent of parents is required. The Chief of Division of Curriculum and Instructional Materials Development, Magaria Tellai said, adding that “some parents give the consent and some don’t. It is often off balance. Not many parents want teachers to talk about it.”

According to Tellai, there are also some parents who want teachers to talk about the sexual health of children because the parents themselves are uncomfortable. In high school, there is information provided about contraception and safe sex.

The children are also educated about the possibility of a sexual abuse being within the family but according to Tellai and Nagata, it is done by the Ministry of Health (MOH) when they hold up lectures.

“We don’t do it ourselves because it is still a touchy issue and we need to educate people in Palau since not too many people are open about sexual health education,” Nagata adds.

Even though teachers are trained to hold up sessions, a lot of them walk out of the training. Nagata says that it is because teachers as well are uncomfortable talking about the issue. There are preventive measures that the school expects from children which include not staying out till late night and being careful of strangers.

The teachers often find out about sexual abuse when students write about it in their journals. If the child allows, the journals are then taken to the MOH and the Public Safety is contacted.   Every year, the MOH goes to Palau High School and conducts the health screening with odd number grades.

Nagata further says that a questionnaire is provided by MOH counselors which include questions about inappropriate touching. However, in the case of sexual abuse, the MOH counselor needs parental permission for a one on one session.

The teachers are taught to keep an eye on the symptoms of sexual abuse or distress. The symptoms according Tellai, include withdrawal from class, being too quiet, being too aggressive or too defensive and if the symptoms are noticed, the child is approached. Tellai adds that children are encouraged to talk about the problem with the immediate trusted adult.

Both Nagata and Tellai stress that there is a need to educate parents to be able to implement education on sexual health and what abuse is at an early age of a child. (Eshan Kalyanikar)