Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

HIV in Ireland: Discussion

10:40 am

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Mr. Goulding may have misunderstood what I said. I stated that I believe young people are better educated and there are more young people in school than ever was the case previously. My point was that I could not understand why this was happening, but obviously the reason is the system in school does not work. I have raised the programme that is being run in schools at this joint committee. Teachers must teach their own classes sex education and it does not work. I have spoken to many teachers and it does not work. It is very difficult for young teachers to be asked to conduct an SPHE session in which they are talking to those children to whom they probably taught maths or English an hour earlier. The feedback I have been getting from teachers is that this is a real difficulty for them. While I have raised this issue here, I have spoken to a few teachers about it and there should be a system within the education system whereby teachers are specifically identified who are not obliged to teach the programme within their own schools but can teach it in neighbouring areas or communities. Consequently, they would not be facing the young people they know, because Mr. Goulding is correct and I agree with him. I have two teenagers at home and this is not a taboo subject in our house. We talk about it freely enough but the point is that when one is in a classroom and one is a young teacher and one is being asked to talk about people's private experience, it is very difficult for young people to open up. One of the biggest problems is the need to consider a system that allows teachers or specific people to travel around schools and teach this programme.

A long time ago, I raised at this joint committee the possibility of having a mobile bus that would travel to all schools - similar to a mobile library, although one could not borrow a book - aboard which people's sexuality and other health issues would be discussed. While people laughed at that suggestion, one of the best innovations in the country has been the introduction of mobile clinics. When they were introduced, they were great for helping people who had drug addictions. Similarly, while I am unsure whether it is there every evening, I frequently pass a mobile clinic on St. Stephen's Green that deals with those who are homeless. They can step onto the bus from time to time if they have a complaint. It is a great facility to have and I reiterate young people should be allowed the opportunity to be able to express themselves in the classroom, albeit not necessarily with Mr. Brady or Mr. Foley, because they had taught those pupils maths ten minutes earlier.


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