O3 Annual Review Meeting kicks Off In South Africa

UNESCO’s flagship Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) programme Annual Review Meeting (ARM)  commenced in Johannesburg , South Africa on Wednesday, May 5 2021.

By Michael Gwarisa in South Africa

The O3 review meeting will be running for three days where UNESCO and its partners will review O3’s transformative results focusing on children, adolescents and young people.

The O3 Programme which is being run in partnership with ministries of education and health, across 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa has already made significant strides despite its Compressive Sexuality Education (CSE) component having received opposition in some countries during its infancy stages. The program has to date empowered 30 million learners to prevent HIV, reduce early and unintended pregnancies and eliminate gender-based violence.

Officiating at the O3 opening ceremony, Honorable Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education in South Africa said regardless of the opposition the programme experienced, the O3 program has made inroads and gained acceptance in South Africa and other regional countries over the years.

We are cognizant of how this programme supported and enhanced our efforts in ensuring that all adolescents and young people have access to Comprehensive Sexuality education and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). The recognition of the rights of young people are key to the prevention of growing infections in our country and elsewhere, ending Early Untended Pregnancies (EUPs) which as a country continue to haunt us and Gender Based Violence (GBV).

“Prevention of these vulnerabilities among our youth will help our countries in making progress regarding our youth development agendas and contribute towards attainment of: Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, and 5; Regional Commitments such as the Eastern and Southern Africa and West Central Africa Commitment; The African Union Action Plan and the Southern Africa Development Community Strategy for Sexual Reproductive Health and others!,” said Honorable Motshekga.

She added that children should be allowed to stay in schools longer so that they attain their dreams and avoid life vulnerabilities that are brought along by not being in a protective environment.

“Colleagues we all know, as evidence showed us and especially in the face of COVID 19 and its ramifications – EDUCATION is indeed a protective factor!!! Children being and staying in school to complete their education. It is vital as it protects them from the aforementioned vulnerabilities. To ensure that adolescents and young people become champions of their lives, we need to empower them so that they contribute to shape their own development.”

The O3 programme first commenced in 2014, and in 2018, the second phase was initiated. It supports the delivery of good quality comprehensive sexuality education that empowers adolescents and young people and builds agency, while developing the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and competencies required for preventing HIV, reducing early and unintended pregnancies, and eliminating gender-based violence.

Implementation of the O3 programme has been made possible through support from various partners and governments of Sweden, France, Switzerland, Norway and Ireland, and the Packard Foundation. Other organisation that have collaborated with UNESCO on the O3 programme include the UNFPA, UNAIDS, SAFAIDS and others.

UNESCO Regional Director, Professor Hubert Gijzen said, “Despite a challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing opposition to CSE, we are pleased to note that UNESCO through the O3 Programme made some significant strides in the delivery of its mandate.

“The O3 programme supports 33 countries working in Sub Saharan African. We have adolescents and young people in the Primary and Secondary schools who are empowered, healthy and resilient and have capacity to reach their full potential and for them to be able to contribute to their community, their country and their region. The recently launched O3PLUS builds on the current O3 programme and focuses on young people in higher and tertiary education situations.”

The new O3 PLUS programme is currently being piloted in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimb-
abwe and according to Professor Gijzen, there is hope that the O3PLUS programme will also
be rolled out in all 33 countries where the flagship O3 programme is being implanted. 

The 03PLUS was launched in 2021 and the programme along with relevant regional structures, national ministries, higher and tertiary education institutions (HTEIs) and key partners, supports innovation in access to life skills-based sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for HTEI students while advocating for policy and practice changes to make campuses safe and inclusive learning environments for students and staff.

Meanwhile, the O3 programme sustains political commitment and advocacy for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) through advancing the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment and the West and Central Africa (WCA) commitment that is under development.

Speaking on the CSE programme, UNESCO’s Regional HIV and Health Advisor, Dr Patricia Machawira said, “What is clear though is that there is less opposition to the CSE programme than previously anticipated. Our aim for 2021 was to reach 17 million leaners with life skills and we were able to double the number of learners to reach 30 million learners across the two sub-regions. We were also able to double the number of pre-service teachers trained owing to increased number of countries where CSE is now institutionalized in teacher training colleges.”

A number of countries in the region have made significant progress in implementing the CSE programme. In Zimbabwe, the CSE programme is being implemented under the Guidance and Counseling life skills education subject. In an interview HealthTimes on the side-lines of the ongoing O3 ARM, Lucas Halimani, and UNESCO’s National Program Specialist – HIV & Health said they have equipped both learners and teachers around CSE and on average, the programme is reaching not less than two million learners.

“We have been receiving substantial support for us to implement the programs in Zimbabwe around CSE which in our context is under the Guidance and Counseling life skills education subject. A lot has happened in Zimbabwe in terms of teacher training. We have trained a lot of teachers on the subject through online CSE online courses as well as face to face-face especially before COVOD-19.

“For us, teachers are the biggest entry points for reaching learners with information because that is their mandate. They have been skilled and taught on how to relay the information to learners. We are currently supporting the ministry in terms of developing learning and teaching materials on the subject area,” said Halimani.

He added that they have already completed learning modules for the grade 5, 6 and 7s on guidance and counseling where they have incorporated emerging issues around child protection, child rights and responsibilities and a whole range of content covered under CSE. Work is already under way on developing the secondary education learners modules for the Form 1 to Form 4 pupils.



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