My 11 year old had an interesting session in school recently- sex education!
The sex education sessions we had (only when we were 15) in our all girls Christian Convent school, run by Irish nuns, was very interestingly delivered by a "Brother" from the neighbouring boys school. He was short, plump and bald but had a great sense of humour and we girls could ask him anything....which was great because I don't think we would have been comfortable with one of our severe looking "sisters" or "mother" or even our normal sariclad teachers, for that matter.
But looking back, the sex education we received in a Convent school in India, was tame compared to what these eleven year olds in modern day Britain are exposed to i.e. slang words for private parts!!??...how is that education? Or maybe it is...
But my know-how about the birds and the bees at that time, without the television or internet was a hell of a lot different to what these kids know today with all the technology available to them. Only when our biology teacher in Class 8 asked the question- "Why do we look like our parents?" did it dawn upon me that there was more to creation of new lives than what meets the eye.
My 3 year old daughter, on the other hand was much more curious. When I was pregnant with her brother, I decided to tell her that there was a baby in mummy's tummy so that she would quit jumping on me. However she laughed outright and said- "Its only food". I then had to take her to scanning sessions to prove my point to her . Once convinced, came a barrage of questions amongst which were- "How did the baby come to be inside your tummy?" "How is it going to come out" "Will it hurt, will you bleed?" etc etc.I tried to be as truthful and informative as I could, keeping in mind her age, intelligence, curiousity and the ability to stand her ground and not be fobbed off.
So sex education for her started at three and has been a continuous process since. She in turn has been educating her brother but even she hadn't told him the facts like the ones he learnt at school in these sessions.
For instance when I asked my son what he had learnt in those interesting sessions, he said- "Women get angry before their periods". Interesting! Bet the next time I get cross with him for watching TV, he will be thinking "Poor woman, she will be OK in a few days..."
Coming back to the continuous sex education for my 15 year old- we had this extensive conversation recently about dating, friendships, relationships...the right age and the right time?
This reminded me of what I had heard about the Bastar tribal youth in Chhattisgarh. One of the CMOs (chief medical officers) had said- "Madam, theirs is a society which is more modern that what you have seen in England and inspite of such a free society, they don't have a problem of teenage pregnancies"
It seems their sex education starts at 6 and all the children stay a a co-ed dormitory called "Ghotul" until late teenage when they find a suitable partner and get married and pursue monogamous relationships.
The system of Ghotul has intrigued many. In this dormitory system, girls and boys go about their work during the day but come back at night to stay in the Ghotul. Time is spent teaching the youngsters life skills like handicrafts while also interacting with each other, singing, dancing, chatting, joking and smoking. "Chilicks" (young men) gift hand-carved combs of bamboo/wood to "Motiharis" (young women). The number of combs in a Motihari's hair is indicative of how sought after she is.
Tribals are said to believe in equality of sexes in the real sense of the term. Men dress up and dance like the peacocks trying to attract a mate. Women take their time and make their choice. The social sanction for this activity and the close knit nature of the village ensures that youngsters stay on course and become responsible contributors to society.
Modern day society with its ills of domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, addictions, female feticide and dowry deaths etc is hardly what development should mean to women in the 21st century.
So I tried to explain to my daughter why it was important not to lose focus and follow the dictat given by our ancient scriptures and concentrate on "Brahmacharya"(celibacy)- from the age of 5 to 25. This was the time meant to be in the Gurukul, living with the Guru and learning lessons of science, philosophy, logic and self discipline, amongst other things. Living with other students in an environment which paid no attention to your parental lineage meant that you would learn the most important values of mutual respect and harmony and hone your skills in negotiation and leadership.
This autumn, top American universities are planning to put their course work online for free. The first online course from Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this year had more students than the entire number of living students who have graduated from the university.
So now the Gurukuls are virtual, games are virtual, friends are virtual, meeting places are virtual and so I often wonder how we are going to learn to live in the real world? There is more and more to learn, in less and less time left for real interactions. Expectations in the real world are based on the virtual and therefore everybody wants to live in a perfect world which "ain't real, mate"
I say this while I sit on my bed typing this blog while hubby dear surfs the internet for news beside me! So much for real interactions in the real world!