Sex education is the provision of knowledge about body development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, as well as skill development, to assist young people in communicating about sex and making educated decisions about their sexual health (Bridges, 2014). Sex education should take place across a student’s grade levels, with material tailored to the student’s developmental stage and cultural context. It should include puberty and reproduction, abstinence, contraception and condoms, relationships, sexual assault prevention, body image, gender identity, and sexual orientation, among other topics (Bridges, 2014).

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is critical in preparing young people for a safe, successful, and satisfying life in a world where HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence (GBV), and gender inequality continue to pose significant threats to their well-being (UNFPA, 2018). Sex education also provides people with the knowledge, skills, and motivation they need to make informed decisions about their sex and sexuality. Many young people enter adulthood with contradicting, negative, and confusing messages about sexuality, which are sometimes worsened by adults’ embarrassment and silence, including parents and instructors (UNFPA, 2018).

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes an adolescent as any individual between ages 10 and 19, and youth as the 15-24 age group. This article focuses on young people ages 10 – 24 years.

A substantial body of evidence indicates that CSE helps children and adolescents develop: accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes, and skills; positive values, such as respect for human rights, equality of the sexes, and diversity; and knowledge and values that make a significant contribution to safe, healthy, positive relationships. CSE is particularly essential because it may assist young people in reflecting on social norms, cultural values, and traditional beliefs in order to better understand and manage their interactions with peers, parents, teachers, other adults, and communities. (UNFPA, 2018).


According to the 2018 National Health Demographic Survey (NDHS), women aged 25-49 had a median age of 17.2 years for their first sexual encounter, compared to 21.7 years for men aged 30-59. 19% of women begin sexual activity before the age of 15, and 57% begin before the age of 18.With such an early onset, CSE is required to improve their knowledge and attitude towards positive sexual and reproductive health and behaviors. 

Additionally, one in every five Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 19 is already a mother or expecting her first child and out of this rural adolescent girls are three times as likely than urban adolescent girls to have started having children (27% versus 8%). However, teenage pregnancy rates vary significantly by state, ranging from 1% in Lagos to 41% in Bauchi (NDHS, 2018). Nigerian women marry significantly earlier than their male counterparts, with women between age 25 to 49 having a median age at first marriage of 19.1 years, while men between the ages of 30 and 59 have a median age at first marriage of 27.7 years ([Nigeria] & ICF., 2019).

Figure 1 Percentage of women age 15-19 who have begun childbearing, 2018  ([Nigeria] & ICF., 2019)

Annually, an estimated 21 million females aged 15–19 in developing countries become pregnant, with about 12 million giving birth (Darroch, et al., 2016). In developing countries, at least 777,000 births are delivered by adolescent females under the age of 15 (UNFPA, 2015). As of 2017, the teenage (15-19) birth rate was 106 per 1,000 women, down from 120 per 1,000 in 2015.

Figure 2 Prevalence of HIV in West and Central African countries, 2013 (Source: World Development Indicators)

According to Figure 2, Nigeria is among the countries with a high prevalence rate of HIV and a significant percentage are individuals between the age of 15-24 years. HIV is a very serious illness that significantly affects the individual’s life, it is paramount that individuals are properly informed about sex and be informed on how to prevent getting infected with STDs.

Figure 3 Contraceptive Prevalence and Unmet need 2010 – 2014 (Source: World Development Indicators)

Figure 4 Percent of married women age 15-49 using a modern method of family planning, 2018 ([Nigeria] & ICF., 2019)

Figure 5 Nigeria Contraceptive Knowledge

Figure 6 Contraceptive use among Sexually active Adolescents Percentage

The use of contraceptives and condoms which prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, are information every teenager or young adult should have adequate Knowledge. Figure 3 depicts Nigeria’s contraceptive prevalence, adolescents in Nigeria rarely use contraception (Abogunrin, 2003), Figure 4 shows the percentage of each state’s use of contraceptives by married couples, we can observe the northern region with the lowest percentage of contraceptive use this is can be attributed to their knowledge and educational background. Figure 5 illustrates the knowledge of boys and girls regarding contraceptives, as well as a survey of Karu, Local Government Area on their level of understanding of contraceptives, and Figure 6 depicts the percentage of sexually active adolescents who use contraceptives; these figures have a direct impact on the incidence of unwanted pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD).

Figure 7 Percentage of women aged 15-49 with a secondary education or higher, 2018  ([Nigeria] & ICF., 2019)

The region with the greatest percentage of 15-19 women who have begun child bearing (figure 1) is still the region with the lowest contraceptive usage by married couples (figure 4) and the lowest number of educated women (as shown in the figure above).

Figure 8 Median age at Sexual Debut and Marriage (Nigeria) Figure 9 First Age of Sexual encounter

Figures 8 and 9 show that the average age at first sexual experience is 15 years, and that most people at this age in Nigeria are in secondary school. Usually, people at this age learn about sex through their peers or social media, which is risky because most of the information is inaccurate, which can lead to bad decisions that might lead to STIs, Unwanted pregnancy and in some cases death either by illegal abortion procedure, birth complications etc. 

Figure 10 Adolescent Pregnancy Outcome (Percentage) Source: DHS 2003, 2008, 2013; World Bank 2014. Karu LGA survey

Figure 10 shows that the majority of adolescents who become pregnant give birth to these children; there are numerous pregnancy complications associated with adolescent girls’ pregnancy, and many of these girls have little or no access to adequate medical care; and the majority of these girls live in rural areas, which account for the majority of the country’s births and maternal mortality ([Nigeria] & ICF., 2019).

Figure 11 Leading causes of girls’ death Source: WHO (DHS, et al., 2016)

Pregnancy and delivery complications are among the top causes of mortality for 15–19-year-old females worldwide (Neal, et al., 2012). Figure 11 displays the total number of fatalities as well as the death rate per 100,000 females. Maternal conditions were the third leading cause of mortality among Nigerian girls, accounting for 6,202 fatalities (i.e., about 31 percent deaths per 100,000 girls). This number of deaths is very alarming and deserves the public’s attention. 


Most African countries, particularly Nigeria, keep sex and sexuality issues hidden from public view. Neither the teenage boy nor girl has full access to the sexuality knowledge they require (Esere, 2006). Sexuality and girl-boy relationships are generally kept under wraps and considered forbidden. As a result of this action, Nigerian adolescent must seek solutions to sex-related issues on their own, frequently from dubious sources that are likely to provide incorrect information (Abogunrin, 2003).

1. The commonest reason for disapproval of sex education is the fear that it would lead to promiscuity amongst the students (Aniebue, 2007). Most Nigerian parents have this same fear regarding educating their children about sex; multiple peer-reviewed research, including a thorough World Health Organization study, have shown that sex education programs that teach young people about abstinence and contraception do not increase sexual activity or encourage adolescents to engage in sex at a younger age (Kohler, et al., 2008; Kirby, et al., 2006; Kirby, 2005; Mueller, et al., 2007).

2. Parental/family authority is undermined or Values and morality are ignored in comprehensive sexuality education programs; Quality sex education promotes a rights-based approach in which principles like respect, acceptance, tolerance, equality, empathy, and fairness are intimately connected to globally acknowledged human rights. Comprehensive sex education also allows young people to explore and establish their own values, as well as the values of their families and communities (United Nations Educational, 2009).

3. Young children are taught the mechanics of sex through comprehensive sexuality education; Age and developmentally appropriate sexuality education is the goal of comprehensive sexuality education. Topics presented vary by grade and are planned and sequentially to develop young people’s knowledge and abilities as they age and to safeguard them if they become sexually active (United Nations Educational, 2009).

4. Abstinence is not promoted by comprehensive sexuality education programs; Comprehensive sexuality education programs stress abstinence as the most effective and safest way to avoid STIs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancy. They also give young people information on contraception and condoms to assist them protect their health and life if they do become sexually active. According to research, these programs are more helpful than abstinence-only programs in helping young people delay sexual start. In reality, a five-year study of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs authorized by the United States Congress found that abstinence-only programs have no effect on young people’s sexual activity (Trenholm & al, 2008; Bruckner & Bearman, 2005).


The beliefs that parent–child sexuality communication does not exist in Africa and that young people do not get enough and correct sexuality knowledge from their parents. Several research done in the last five years have called these assumptions into question. They demonstrate that home-based sexuality education is not uncommon in Africa and that young Africans who get direct parental sexuality lessons do not necessarily hold or convey more correct sexuality information than those who do not (Ademola, 2003; Izugbara, 2004). 

Parents, while discussing sexuality with their children, restrict it to the realm of the hazardous, unpleasant, and nasty. The purposeful deception of their children and the use of fear-based ideology, which entails the depiction of sex using frightening imagery and young people’s sexual conduct as immoral and wayward. This sort of family sexual communication misinforms young people, leaving them adrift in a sea of half-truths, untruths, disinformation, and biases (Izugbara, 2004). Which most times doesn’t work simply because they get into the society and experience something completely different, their body also tells them something completely different from what their parents told them. It has been recommended that parents in Africa should break the traditional taboo around sexual topics in the family and take on the responsibility of talking to their children about sexuality in order to promote young people’s access to correct sexuality information (Cornwell & Welbourn, 2000).

On the other hand, excellent and positive parent–child sexuality communication, defined as the transfer of accurate, unambiguous, and timely sexuality information to children, is helpful. This communication style has been linked to a delayed beginning of sexual activity, a high awareness of sexual danger, and a low engagement in risky sexual behaviors, according to research. Good communication encourages young people to take contraception and decreases their risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy (Aaron & Jenkins, 2002; Adegbola, 1996; Miller, et al., 1998).

The cultural framing of sex as taboo in many areas of the world, according to (Nickelodeon & Kaiser Family, 1999) and (Wallis & VanEvery, 2000), is the primary barrier to home-based sexuality education. They claimed that the widespread portrayal of children as “innocent” and “corruptible” made it necessary to “guard” them against carnal knowledge (Gabb, 2004).

Other key causes of a lack of family sexual communication include embarrassment, lack of knowledge, poorly defined values, fears of encouraging early sexual activity or interest in sex, inability to initiate and maintain a conversation on the subject, and cultural norms that make sexual knowledge taboo and depict proper parenting in terms of protecting children from early knowledge about sex (Aaron & Jenkins, 2002; Orgocka, 2004; Pluhar & Kuriloff, 2004).

Young girls are more likely than their male counterparts to be talked to about their sexuality, and moms are more likely than dads to offer their children a home-based sex education (Orgocka, 2004; Walker, 2004). The popular construction of teenage girls’ sexuality in terms of risk and vulnerability has been highlighted as a major reason why females are more likely than boys to receive home-based sexuality education (Nickelodeon & Kaiser Family, 1999). On the other hand, parents prefer to define sons’ life in terms of adventure and risk-taking, and as a result, they allow them to experiment with everything, including sex. It has also been claimed that parents have more difficulty talking to their boys about sexual topics, particularly when determining the appropriate time to bring up the subject (Walker, 2001; Sharpe, et al., 1996).

Mothers are more willing to offer home-based sex education than fathers, a research by (Walker, 2001) reported this to be due to the prevalent perception of mothers as caretakers and home educators seems to encourage their willingness to assume responsibility for home-based sexuality education. 


Teenagers exhibit sexual behaviors and developmental traits that put them at risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Because young people explore sexually and because of the repercussions of indiscriminate sexual activities on the youth, sex education programs oriented toward enlightenment and proper instruction about sex and sexuality are needed (Esere , 2008; Remafedi, 1999).

1. Sex education enhances young people’s understanding and improves their attitudes about sexual and reproductive health and behavior.

2. Sexuality education, whether in or out of the classroom, does not increase the incidence of sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behavior, or STI/HIV infection rates among young people.

3. When school-based programs are supplemented with the engagement of parents and teachers, training institutes, and youth-friendly services, sexuality education has the greatest impact.

4. Some teenagers lack the necessary communication and assertiveness skills to negotiate safer sex situations, some adolescents find it difficult to resist unwanted sex or feel forced to exchange sex for money, a Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) would help them understand consent, acceptance, tolerance etc., and also help them understand rape and its consequences (Maduakonam, 2001; Nwabuisi, 2004; Ayoade, 2006). 

5. If more girls are educated about their sexuality, they will be more informed about contraception, which will help minimize the number of unwanted births.


Poor sexuality knowledge, according to researchers, sexuality educators, and several other groups working in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Africa, is the major reason why the triple tragedy of HIV/AIDS, unwanted teenage pregnancy, and unsafe induced abortion continues to have the highest number of victims among young people from the continent (Esiet, et al., 2001; Kelly, 2001).

Adolescents in Nigeria rarely use contraception (Abogunrin, 2003), they are less likely than adults to use condoms or other means of protection on a regular basis, which might lower their risks of infection (Adegoke, 2003). It is common in many Nigerian communities to prevent teenagers from getting sexual education since it is wrongly believed that ignorance will foster abstinence, despite the prevalence of unprotected sexual activity and the devastating consequences is becoming too obvious (Onwuezobe & Ekanem, 2009). 

Many teenagers are uncomfortable discussing matters about their sexual feelings with their parents or other family members. As a result, they require a place where they can get reliable information and/or express their thoughts. Providing this safe space and environment is very important.


[Nigeria], N. P. C. (. & ICF., 2019. Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018, Abuja, Nigeria, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: NPC and ICF: National Population Commission (NPC).

Aaron, S. J. & Jenkins, R. R., 2002. Sex, pregnancy, and contraception-related motivators and barriers among Latino and African-American youth in Washington DC. Sex Education, Volume 2, pp. 5-30..

Abogunrin, A., 2003. Sexual behaviour, condom use and attitude towards HIV/AIDS among adolescents in Nigeria. Nigeria, University of Ilorin; : An Unpublished Ph.D thesis.

Adegbola, F., 1996. Gender issues in childrearing: The role parents and teachers. In L. Erinosho (ED) Women’s empowerment and reproductive health. Social Science and Reproductive Health Research, pp. 79-91.

Adegoke, A., 2003. Adolescents in Africa: Revealing the problems of teenagers in contemporary African society, Ibadan: Hadassah Publishing.

Ademola, K., 2003. Source of sexual knowledge among Nigerian Youth. Studies in, Volume 2, pp. 13-19..

Aniebue, P., 2007. Knowledge and attitude of secondary school teachers in Enugu to school based sex education. Niger J Clin Pract, pp. 304-8.

Ayoade, C., 2006. Relationships among leisure, social self-image, peer pressure andat-risk behaviour of adolescents in Nigeria, University of Ilorin: An unpublished Ph.D thesis.

Bridges, Emily. Hauser, Debra.,2014. Sexuality Education: Building an Evidence- and Rights-Based Approach to Healthy Decision-Making. Advocates for Youth, pp. 6

Bruckner, H. & Bearman, P., 2005. After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges. Journal of Adolescent, Issue 36, pp. 271-278.

Cornwell, A. & Welbourn, A., 2000. From reproduction to rights: Participatory approaches to sexual and reproductive health. PLA Notes, Issue 37, pp. 14-21.

Darroch , J., Woog , V., Bankole , A. & Ashford , L., 2016. Adding it up: Costs and benefits of meeting the contraceptive needs of adolescents.. New York: Guttmacher Institute.

DHS, 1.-2., 2017, U.-S. & Division, U. D. P., 2016. The joint mission from UNICEF and WHO Africa Regional Office, Geneva: WHOGlobal health observatory 2018; The World Bank 2018;WHO Global health estimates 2015,.

Esere , M., 2008. Effect of Sex Education Programme on at-risk sexual behaviour of school-going adolescents in Ilorin, Nigeria. Afr Health Sci, 2(8), pp. 120-125..

Esere, M., 2006. HIV/AIDS awareness of in-school adolescents in Nigeria: Implications for adolescence sexuality. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 2(16), p. 255–258.

Esiet, U. E. et al., 2001. Sexuality in Nigeria. International Encyclopedia of Sexuality.

Gabb, J., 2004. Sexuality education: How children of lesbian mothers “learn” about sex/uality. Sex Education, pp. 19-34.

Izugbara, C. O., 2004. Notions of sex, sexuality and relationship among adolescent boys in rural southeastern Nigeria. Sex Education, Volume 4, pp. 63-79.

Kelly, M. J., 2001. Challenging the challenger: Understanding and expanding the response, Washington, DC:: The World Bank for the ADEA Working group on higher education.

Kirby, D., 2005. The Impact of Abstinence and Comprehensive Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs on Adolescent Behavior.. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, pp. 18-27..

Kirby, D., Laris, B. & Rolleri, L., 2006. Sex and HIV Education Programs: Their Impact on Sexual Behaviors of Young People Throughout the World. Journal of Adolescent Health, pp. 206-217.

Kohler, P., Manhart, L. & Lafferty, W., 2008. Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, pp. 344-51..

Maduakonam, A., 2001. Sex education in schools: A panacea for adolescent sexuality Problems.. In: O. R. e. In: Okonkwo RUN, ed. The Nigerian Adolescent In Perspective. . Akwa: Theo Onwuka and Sons Publishers, p. 74–82.

Miller, B. C., Norton, M. C., Fan, X. & Christophersen, C. R., 1998. Pubertal development, parent communication, and sexual values in relation to sexual behaviors. Journal of Early Adolescence,, Volume 18, pp. 27-52..

Mueller, T., Gavin, L. & Kulkarni., A., 2007. The Association Between Sex Education and Youth Engagement in Sexual Intercourse, Age at First Intercourse, and Birth Control Use at First Sex. Journal of Adolescent Health, pp. 89-96..

Neal, S., Matthews , Z., Frost , M. & et al, 2012. Childbearing in adolescents aged 12–15 years in low resource countries: a neglected issue. New estimates from demographic and household surveys in 42 countries.. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand , p. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand .

Nickelodeon, &. H. J. & Kaiser Family, F., 1999. Talking with kids about tough issues: A national survey of parents and kids. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 18 July 2021].

Nwabuisi, E., 2004. Support networks and adjustment needs of HIV/AIDS patients in the Zonal ‘hotspots’ in Nigeria, University of Ilorin: An unpublished Ph. D Thesis.

Onwuezobe, I. & Ekanem, E., 2009. The attitude of teachers to sexuality education in a populous local government area in Lagos, Nigeria. Pak J Med Sci, 6(25), pp. 934-937.

Orgocka, A., 2004. Perceptions of communication and education about sexuality among Muslim immigrant girls in the U.S.. Sex Education,, Volume 4, pp. 255-271.

Pluhar, E. T. & Kuriloff, P., 2004. What really matters in family communication about sexuality? A qualitative analysis of affect and style among Africa American mothers and adolescent daughter. Sex Education, Volume 4, pp. 303-321.

Remafedi, G., 1999. Predictors of unprotected intercourse among gay and bisexual youth: knowledge, beliefs, and behavior.. Pediatrics, p. 163–168.

Sharpe, S., Mauthner, H. & France–Dawson, M., 1996. Family health: A literature review (Family Health Research Report)., London: Health Education Authority.

Trenholm, C. & al, e., 2008. Correction for “Impacts of Abstinence Education on Teen Sexual Activity, Risk of Pregnancy, and Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 3(27), pp. 716-716.

UNFPA, 2015. Girlhood, not motherhood: Preventing adolescent pregnancy. New York: UNFPA.

UNFPA, 2018. International technical guidance on sexuality education; An evidence-informed approach. Paris: UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO.

United Nations Educational, S. a. C. O. (., 2009. International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators. Volume 1. The Rationale for Sexuality Education.

UNWomen, 2021. Country Fact Sheet | UN Women Data Hub. [Online]
Available at:

Walker, J., 2004. Parents and sex education: Looking beyond “the birds and the bees”. Sex Education,, Volume 4, pp. 239-254.

Walker, J. L., 2001. A qualitative study of parents’ experiences of providing sex education for their children: The implications for health education.. Health Education Journal, Issue 60, pp. 132-146.

Wallis, A. & VanEvery, J., 2000. Sexuality in the primary school. Sexualities,, Volume 3, pp. 409-423.

Whitehead, K., 2021. Sex Education—New Vatican Guidelines. EWTN Global Catholic Network. [Online]
Available at: