Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro said she remains unshakeable in her stance that condoms should not, and will not, be distributed in schools across Antigua & Barbuda, at least not under her watch.
The minister was responding to a recent call from a representative of Educational International, who said access to prophylactics could help stem the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“Absolutely not. The distribution of condoms in schools will certainly not be a part of any policy in Antigua & Barbuda. The ministry will never endorse any policy of giving condoms to children,” Dr Quinn-Leandro said.
The suggestion came from co-ordinator of the St Lucia-based organisation Educational International Virginia Albert-Poyette.
Albert-Poyette spoke at the just-concluded workshop where representatives of 12 regional teacher trade unions conducted an evaluation of a five-year project on HIV and AIDS and education for all.
Albert-Poyette said the issue must be tackled, since advocating that students exercise safe sex or abstinence could not be considered a guarantee. She also said the authorities have a responsibility to formulate policy on such issues.
However, Dr Quinn-Leandro said as a Christian society, talks about pre-marital sex will be a “no-no” for students. She also said schools here will continue to promote abstinence.
“Children are children and there should be no sex while in school. Sex is for adults and we will not be condoning children having sex, not while I’m minister of education,” Dr Quinn-Leandro said.
“We are going to continue promoting abstinence until the cows come home because abstinence is the right message for children. Who don’t want to promote abstinence, then that is up to them but we will not be weary in well doing,” she added.
Earlier, Albert-Poyette argued for a holistic look at students’ sexual proclivities.
“We are promoting abstinence for students as best as we can, but given the situation with our young people, it is one thing to preach, but another thing to practice, and, therefore, we have to give them the alternative, which is the use of condoms,” she said.
She was, however, clear that abstinence should be the first line of defence.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)