10/05/2012 10:50

No condoms at Catholic school premises

The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea will not make condoms available at its school premises for students and teachers as required by a new policy on HIV/AIDS soon to be enforced by the National Education Department .

The decision taken by the recent Annual General Meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Kokopo is final: “Though the document issued by the Education Department is positive in more than one sense, we cannot be forced to follow a policy that conflicts with our philosophy of education”, says Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul, Deputy Bishop for Education.

The Catholic Church sees the open and wide distribution of condoms as a go-signal to students for further sexual misbehavior before and outside marriage; “If a school gives a biro and a book to a student , the message behind it is simple, ‘education’; but, if it gives condoms, the message for students will just be, ‘go out and feel free to do whatever you want’,  Principal of Bomana De La Salle Secondary school, James Ume, said at a meeting of Catholic School Head-teachers in March. The Education Department instead believes that there is no way to fully control the sexual behavior of a number of students and claims that a high rate of HIV-AIDS infection in recent years has been reported among the school population.

The Catholic Church also believes that PNG Education legislation implies that families and school boards should be the ones to deal with issues such as HIV-AIDS. “It is good that in this draft, parents are now more than passive recipients in the policy – says Fr. Paul Jennings of St Joseph International College in Boroko; -  however, parents are the first teachers and have responsibility for the behavior of children.  The policy should do more than ‘maintain partnerships’ with parents.  It could and should empower parents to be active agents in behavioral change.”

Questioned about the possibility of the Catholic Church being challenged in court by the government over its decision, Archbishop Panfilo said that “this would be an opportunity for us to prove that the National Education Act is being disregarded by the government.” (CBC Communications 070512 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)