Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to immediately address the gaps on reproductive health education amid the possible increase in the number of teenage pregnancies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education committee, cited the March study of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) which showed the lack of adequate materials and accessible teacher trainings for the effective implementation of development-appropriate reproductive health education mandated under Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
Along with this, he noted the recent report citing the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) which showed that the number of teenage pregnancies in the Cordilleras went by 46.43%.
The report warned that the COVID-19 lockdown measures could worsen the surge of teenage pregnancies in the country.
“Lalo nating dapat paigtingin ang pagtugon sa mga kakulangang ito, lalo na’t ang pagdami ng mga batang ina ay isa sa mga nakita nating epekto ng pandemya,” Gatchalian said.
(We should strengthen our response to these shortcoming, especially that the rise in the number of teenage mothers is one of the possible effects of the pandemic.)
The DepEd has issued Department Order 31 series of 2018 to provide guidelines for the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), Gatchalian said.
The PIDS study, however, pointed out that when it comes to reproductive health education, “there is an apparent lack of qualified manpower, facilities, trainings, instructional materials, coordination, and monitoring system,” he added.
The agency's focus group discussions (FGD) with teachers of different subject groups also revealed that trainings on CSE curriculum integration were inadequate and inaccessible.
Although most of the provisions of the law have been complied with, the think tank said there is still a need to strengthen programs to meet the goals of the RPRH Law.
"Bagama’t ilang taon na ang lumipas simula nang magkaroon tayo ng batas sa Reproductive Health Law at magkaroon ng polisiya ang DepEd sa usapin ng CSE, may mga kakulangan pa rin tayong nakikita tulad ng sapat na teacher trainings at learning materials upang maging mas mabisa ang pagtuturo ng Comprehensive Sexual Education sa ating mga paaralan,” Gatchalian said.
(Although many years have passed since the Reproductive Health Law took effect and the DepEd came up with a policy when it comes to CSE, we still see issues like the lack of teacher trainings and materials to ensure proper instruction of Comprehensive Sexual Education in our schools.)
A Social Weather Station survey conducted in November 2020 revealed that majority of Filipinos considered teenage pregnancy the most important problem among women.
The rise of teenage pregnancy in the country has been declared as a “national and social emergency.”
According to POPCOM, the number of births among girls has risen in nine years since 2011. — RSJ, GMA News