Education on health, nutrition and population at the school level is not running according to the curriculum. Families and society do not accept any discussion about the sexual and reproductive health of teenagers. Due to a lack of awareness by families, teachers and society, the benefits of adolescent-friendly healthcare are missing.
This was mentioned at a webinar on sexual and reproductive health rights of adolescents in the current situation organised by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), a human rights organisation, on the occasion of International Women's Day 2021.
Despite various steps taken by the government regarding adolescent healthcare, according to the statistics of 2019-2020, 420 adolescent boys and 1,564 adolescent girls received this healthcare in 2019. And, in 2020, the numbers were 183 and 1,170, respectively.
According to a district-wise calculation, adolescents have received no such healthcare services in Patuakhali and Barguna in the last two years.
Although fewer in number, adolescent girls in Jhalokati received the most healthcare services in these two years. And, despite being very few in number, adolescent boys in Barisal division have received more services than their peers in other divisions.
In Bhola, the rate of receiving services for adolescent boys is zero.
It was said at the webinar that although the government has focused on adolescent-friendly healthcare, the expected results have not been achieved.
The 2017-2022 Adolescent Health Care Operation Plan contains awareness programmes on: child marriage, adolescent motherhood, violence against women, seasonal hygiene, nutrition, mental health, personal hygiene. However, parents, guardians, religious gurus, social workers, local elders, and political leaders do not bother about these issues.
In the webinar, teenagers from different parts of the country shared their personal experiences. They said that even though these topics are in the curriculum, teachers do not teach reproductive health from books in schools and ask the students to read the sections at home. There is also a lack of toilets in schools.
Education Minister Dipu Moni was present at the programme as the chief guest and Dr Mohammad Sharif (MCH), Line Director of the Department of Family Planning was present as a special guest.
It was chaired by Shaheen Anam, chief executive of the Manusher Jonno Foundation.
Dipu Moni said it is the responsibility of parents, teachers and health workers to create awareness among the youth. Adolescent boys and girls do not talk much about a safe sex life and reproductive health with their parents or teachers.
"On the other hand, parents do not make them aware of the issues. So, a change of mindset is very important now. Two lakh teachers will soon start working to provide counselling at the school level," she added.
Dr Mohammad Sharif said, "We have been able to reduce maternal and child mortality rates but not adolescent pregnancies and child marriages. That is why we are working."
"However, there is still hesitation in adolescent reproductive health and it is not taught in schools. There is a generation breakthrough project with the education ministry. We are trying to figure out how to make it more active," he added.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (2018), out of the total population of the country, 2.77 crore people are adolescents.