Empowering Adolescents at Schools Conference in which many leader education institutions participated was held in Istanbul. Specialists, educators and NGOs discussed the importance and methods of supporting the growth process of adolescents at schools in the conference organized in collaboration of Turkish Family Health and Planning Foundation and United Nations Population Fund on November 24th, Teachers’ Day.
General Coordinator of Turkish Family Health and Planning Foundation Nurcan Müftüoğlu, who took the stage shortly at the opening of the meeting in which more than 120 participants including lecturers, teachers, students of education faculty and specialists attended, stated the importance of access of adolescent students to comprehensive sexual health information that has been structured according to their ages in their school environment and she highlighted how much this support can be empowering in order to make them take correct and responsible decisions.
The other speaker who also took the stage for opening speech was Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya, Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Coordinator of United Nations Population Fund and he stated that this conference was being held on Teachers’ Day and continued as follows; “Youth constitute almost one fourth of our country’s population unfortunately do not have sufficient knowledge about adolescent age and growth stages; the issues mostly affect youth are unfamiliarity with their rapid physical changes, incompliance with their psychological and biological changes, abuse, harassment, violence, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy”.
In his speech Yıldırımkaya said that “Since having the adolescent health been a part of compulsory education which is almost a standard application in the World could not have included in the syllabus of our schools at sufficient level as required, make youth get stripped of the information that they can access from the most correct, most reliable and easily accessible source and namely they struggle with their problems alone. He also stated that “youth mostly try to learn sexual health information from their friends, newspapers, internet sites. Having been a reliable source of information is highly limited for families. Hearsay information and messages obtained from unreliable sources of internet on this issue negatively affect the behavior and health of youth”.
In her presentation Gözde Ertekin from Education Reform Initiative gave information about how the education environment that is convenient for the adolescents should be and in her speech she stated that “Education institutions should provide opportunity for the youth both to develop their academic career and their social skills. Students should feel themselves secure at their schools. School environments should be safe and secure where there is no peer victimization”.
Gözde Durmuş from Children Studies Unit of Istanbul Bilgi University stated that schools should be places which drive them to develop in the point of view of adolescents. She expressed that adolescents are trapped in a place between childhood and adulthood and stated that schools should breakthrough this trap. At the end of her speech, Durmuş said that “It is important to remember that adolescents also have a private life. Ultimately adolescents are the specialists of their own lives”.
Özge Gültekin who participated the panel session from Rayka Kumru Eğitim ve Danışmanlık, sexual health education must be given at schools and she highlighted that adolescents can only be empowered by means of such education. The inquiry of adolescents about sexual health ends with surfing in unreliable resources of internet and adolescents should be absolutely provided with reliable information.
Selin Şen from İstanbul Robert College stated that being sexual health an effable issue is a requirement and in order to make this issue effable for adolescents it is important to make it effable for adults.
In various sessions of the conference program important dimensions of education environment and sexual health education were expressed under the headings of “The Role of Education System in Supporting Adolescent Growth”, “Bodily Voice”, “Private Space and School”, “Gender Identity Development and Discrimination”. The conference ended with a forum where recommendations and comments of participants about future were shared.