The training workshop is being run by the Ministry of Education and taught by former MoE staff, Debbie and James Puati.
Debbie says the alarming statistics the Cook Islands reported in 2012 on matters of sexuality including pregnancy, sexual health and sexual crimes, is one of the main reasons behind this week’s training.
“Only one out of all the schools surveyed said they had received education on sexuality and relationships,” Debbie says.
This is a real issue, especially because we also found that 40 per cent of students under 14 years of age are having sex, she says.
Of this, only 42 per cent reported using condoms, which Debbie says probably accounts for the high teenage pregnancy rate.
She says they are really pushing for more than just a one-off lesson on how to properly use a condom.
“What we have found is that the kids already know that they need to use condoms, and where to get them from. They are just too embarrassed to go and ask for them,” Debbie says.
She says they also found the students do actually want to learn more about how to have healthy relationships and sexual encounters.
To combat the problem, around 10 teachers from the Southern Islands have come together for this workshop, hoping to build on their own body of knowledge to then take back to their school and wider community.
Nurses and community leaders are also taking part in order to strengthen all areas where sexuality is involved.
This is the first sexuality education workshop since one in 2004, which was also run by Debbie.
Today, the workshop will run through issues surrounding relationships and how to teach children about healthy, monogamous relationships.
On Wednesday, the group will go through a basic education on biological issues of sexual health including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Thursday will include a very sensitive discussion on sexual education for LGBT students, who are often overlooked.
Debbie says although this training will be controversial, 10 per cent of the students surveyed in the 2012 report identified as LGBT.
Further to this, 22 percent of those surveyed said they were still unsure of their sexuality, although Debbie says this figure could be higher.
“None of our sexuality education addresses any of the stigma and discrimination that these people face, and yet all the kids said that we should address it,” she says.
Debbie says the main thing that’s been really encouraging in getting this workshop to happen, is that all of the students are eager to learn.
“They want to learn how to have good, strong relationships, they want to learn how to fix relationships when something goes wrong and they don’t want to have relationships which are aggressive or violent, and that’s really mature,” Debbie says.
She says in this day, young people often know a lot more about sexuality and relationships than adults, with all the information out there on the internet.
“I think kids often aren’t given enough credit that they can be mature about these things,” she says.
The workshop will continue through the week till the final session on Friday.