Youth survey asks the hard questions

More than eight percent of 10 699 pupils in grade 8 to 11 who participated in a nationwide survey reported having forced someone to have sex with them.

There was no significant difference in the prevalence among boys and girls, according to the first Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, which was released in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Almost 10% of the respondents probed last year said they had been forced to have sex at some stage.

Just over 40%—about half of boys and a third of girls—reported having had intercourse, with 14,4% saying they had their first experience before they were 14 years old.

Of those sexually active, 54% said they had had two or more partners. Almost 29% said they always used a condom.

Dr Priscilla Reddy of the Medical Research Council, who led the survey, told reporters that a study she did in the Western Cape in 1994 indicated condom use of only four percent.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was asked whether the latest survey, indicating that about 71% did not always use condoms, did not warrant a chance in the government’s approach.

“What would excite me would be if they don’t engage in sex, and therefore don’t need condoms,” she replied. “For us to focus on condoms for school children aged 13 or 14 is not right.”

One should rather talk to them about abstinence, Tshabalala-Msimang said.

“You shouldn’t even have a sleeping partner at 13.”

Thami Mseleku, Director General of the Department of Education, said the 29% using condoms was a good figure, given the difficulty children had in getting them.

Tshabalala-Msimang found the four percent obesity rate indicated in the report most startling.
That could lay the basis for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, she said.

“We think it’s fun if our children have these fizzy drinks. We could do with oranges, naartjies and apples. You probably don’t need chocolate. You probably just need rooibos tea.”

Just over 17% of children were overweight.

About a quarter of the respondents indicated that they watched television or played video or computer games for more than three hours a day.

Nine percent were underweight, 11,4% were stunted—too short for their age—and four percent suffered from wasting—weighing too little, considering their height.

Some 17,3% had made one or more suicide attempts in the preceding six months. Mpumalanga’s figure was 23,1%.

Nationally, 19% had considered suicide.

According to the report, over nine percent of the children carried a weapon such as a gun, knife, panga or kierie to school on one or more days in the month preceding the survey. Almost 15% had been injured or threatened at school with such a weapon.

Close on one third had felt unsafe at school in the month before the survey, while over one-fifth felt unsafe on the way to and from school. Over 40% had been bullied.

Just more than 13% reported having assaulted their boyfriend or girlfriend, and a similar number had been a victim of such an assault.

Illegal drugs had been offered, sold or given an illegal drug to 17,2% at school during the six months preceding the survey.

Some six percent had used Mandrax, with similar figures for cocaine and club drugs. The figures for heroin and inhalants were around 11%, and that for dagga 12,8%.

Almost a quarter had engaged in binge drinking in the month before the survey.

About one in five pupils were considered to be current cigarette smokers. Nearly half of these had tried to quit over the preceding year, the report says. - Sapa

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