MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to urgently address the gaps in reproductive health education, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens to increase the number of teenage mothers in the country.
In a statement, Gatchalian cited a March study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) which showed the lack of adequate materials and accessible teacher training for the effective implementation of age and development-appropriate reproductive health education.
Reproductive health education is mandated under Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
Gatchalian who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture also noted a recent report citing the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) which revealed that the number of teenage pregnancies in the Cordilleras recently spiked by 46.43 percent.
The senator warned that existing lockdown measures could “exacerbate the surge of teenage pregnancy 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.
DepEd had issued DO 31 s. 2018 to guide the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).
However, the PIDS study pointed out that when it comes to reproductive health education, “there is an apparent lack of qualified manpower, facilities, training, instructional materials, coordination, and monitoring system.”
The PIDS’ focus group discussions with teachers of different subject groups also revealed that training on CSE curriculum integration was inadequate and inaccessible.
While most of the provisions of the law have been complied with, the state think tank stressed there is still a need for strengthened programs to realize the goals of the 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.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) revealed that in 2020, there were 2,422 babies born to teenage parents in the Cordilleras from 1,654 in 2019.
On a national scale, pregnancies among minors aged 15 and below were up by 7 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year.