Comprehensive Sexuality Education

1. Context and background

2. Terminology

3. Laws and policies

4. Governance

5. Monitoring and reporting


1. Context and background

Sierra Leone has low contraceptive use, a high rate of early and unintended pregnancies, and one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. In addition, according to the 2021 National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, systemic factors have a disproportionately negative impact on the safety, attendance, and academic performance of girls. According to the 2021 Transforming Education Service Delivery Through Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice, this became worse with the onset of COVID-19.

In 2006, UNFPA and UNESCO supported the development and implementation of a population/family life course for primary and junior secondary education, which emphasized emerging issues such as gender, HIV & AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH). However, the programme was discontinued when the project ended.

Sierra Leone has made recent efforts to reduce the high prevalence of early and unintended pregnancies and child marriage in the country, including the repeal of a law prohibiting pregnant girls from attending school in 2020, and the Government's initiative to implement Integrating Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into formal and non-formal education.

The 2015 National Basic Education Curriculum was reviewed in 2019 using the Sexuality Education Review and Analysis Tool (SERAT) developed by UNESCO. The review aimed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the integration of CSE into the curriculum. In 2020, the National Curriculum for Basic Education was released; it integrates CSE into its framework and includes mandatory core curriculum subjects on SRH.


2. Terminology

Sierra Leone has adopted and agreed to the term ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ (CSE) and has incorporated it into its curriculum. Comprehensive sexuality education is a ‘curriculum-based method of teaching and learning about the different aspects of sexuality. It equips young people with scientifically accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. It goes beyond information, to encourage confidence, improved communication skills and critical thinking skills to make conscious, healthy and respectful decisions about relationships and accessing health services. Comprehensive sexuality education is gender-sensitive and firmly grounded in human rights. It empowers children, adolescents and young people to achieve their right to education about their bodies, relationships and sexuality.’


3. Laws and policies

3.1. Relevant international/regional agreements to which Sierra Leone is a signatory



Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)


Ratification date: 1988

Acknowledges the need to guarantee sexuality education free from discrimination and stereotypes, conveying gender equality values.


Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)


Ratification date: 1990

Commits to the right to access appropriate health-related information.


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)


Ratification date: 2010

Commits to the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities.


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Ratification date: 1996

Acknowledges that the right to sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of the right to health.


UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education

Ratification date: 1967

Reaffirms that education is a human right. It highlights states' obligations to ensure free and compulsory education, bans any form of discrimination and promotes equality of educational opportunity.




In 2021, Sierra Leone joined the Global Initiative to Accelerate Adolescent Girls' and Young Women's Empowerment Education Plus Initiative, committing the country to ensuring the rights that every adolescent girl and young woman should be entitled to in their transition to adulthood. These include the completion of quality secondary education, universal access to CSE, and SRH rights.

3.2. Relevant national laws and policies mandating comprehensive sexuality education

The 2004 Education Act does not refer to sexuality or health education.

The 2007 National Child Rights Act mandates that all children have access to health care and free elementary education.

Article 20 of the 2011 National HIV and AIDS Commission Act specifies that the ministry responsible for education shall integrate instruction on the causes, modes of transmission, and methods of prevention and protection against HIV & AIDS and other STIs in subjects taught in public and private schools at the primary, secondary, tertiary and non-formal levels.

According to the Review of the National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education (2018-2019), the Government of Sierra Leone is committed to adopting CSE, and the updated National Education Policy will include measures related to its implementation. CSE will be integrated into the curriculum across all core subject areas, from upper elementary through senior high school. The Government is committed to enhancing and expanding the current CSE training (called Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Life Skills) for primary school teachers to upper primary school, junior secondary school, senior secondary school, technical and vocational institutions, teacher training colleges, and out-of-school learning centres.

The National Strategy for the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy and Child Marriage 2018-2022 aims to ensure that all adolescents have access to CSE and that the learning environment is conducive to the academic success of adolescent girls and boys. In 2020, the Government abolished a restriction preventing pregnant girls and women from attending school and adopted a new policy cantered on the ‘radical inclusion’ of children into the educational system.

The Government of Sierra Leone’s Medium-term National Development Plan 2019–2023 also emphasizes the Free Quality School Education Programme in order to enhance human capital development and facilitate the transformation of the economy. The implementation plan outlines a series of policy actions and strategies, including CSE, to strengthen existing laws, policies and measures for reducing child marriage and gender-based violence. Volume II of the implementation plan identifies CSE as one of the crucial programmes to be implemented to reduce early and unintended pregnancies.

The Sierra Leone National Reproductive, Maternal, New Born, Child and Adolescent Health Strategy 2017–2021 identifies early and unintended pregnancy prevention, ending early child marriages, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence as priority interventions for the adolescent health package. This strategy will strengthen the establishment and functioning of adolescent-responsive health services across all primary health care units, and at district and referral hospitals. It will also strengthen school health programmes, including CSE, and develop programmes to reach out-of-school youth.

The 2021 National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools aims to ensure that all schools in Sierra Leone are accessible to, and inclusive of, all students, especially those who are regularly marginalized or excluded. The policy focuses on four excluded and marginalized groups: children with disabilities, children from low-income families, children in rural and underserved regions, and girls, especially those who are pregnant and enrolled in school or parent learners. In addition, ‘the Policy will help facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health services, including the provision of comprehensive sexuality education at school and in the community, and engage communities in ways to support all learners’.

The 2010 National Education Policy aims to integrate and promote sound, age-appropriate life skills education, including SRH education and HIV & AIDS information and education, at all formal and non-formal education levels.

The 2020 National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education state that: ‘It is at this crucial stage that education should contribute to the positive development of young people; adolescents will have unique needs relating to health and personal hygiene; gender and sexuality; sex education; emotional competencies, self-efficacy; comprehension skills; and numerous other traits that will serve them well as they develop.'


3.3. Curricula

Mandatory or optional

The 2020 National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education includes classes on SRH within its core subjects, which are mandatory for all students.

Model of delivery

The 2020 National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education incorporates within its core subjects (mandatory for all students) topics on SRH for elementary and junior high schools. CSE has not yet been integrated into the curriculum of senior high schools. Additional courses that address CSE are optional as elective courses. The 2020 National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education integrates CSE into the syllabus of five subjects: social studies, integrated sciences, religious and moral education, home economics, and physical health education.

Comprehensiveness of content

The General Guiding Principles for Basic Education Curriculum of the 2020 National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education state that ‘much of the learning essential for basic education in Sierra Leone does not always fit easily into a single subject or discipline as conventionally taught in schools’. For example, gender and sexuality issues and the management of risky health behaviours would need to be covered in a variety of courses, including integrated science, social studies and physical health education. This can also be accomplished through the use of appropriate stories in language classes and supplementary learning materials, such as readers, comics, plays, and audio-visual material.

In 2020, the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education released the new National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education, which includes three new subjects: civic education, environmental education, and sexual and comprehensive safety.

According to the 2020 Review of the National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education Using the Sexuality Review and Analysis Tool curriculum content for ages 5-8 explores topics such as the human body and development, relationships, and skills for health and well-being. However, a number of other key concept were missing from the teaching syllabi, such as values, rights and culture; understanding gender, violence and staying safe; sexuality and sexual behaviour; and SRH. In addition, the Sexuality Education Review and Analysis Tool 2020 notes that CSE-related topics found in the review were not inclusive of persons with disabilities, there was limited inclusion of a rights focus, and a complete omission of a gender focus. In the curriculum content for ages 9-12, six out of the eight critical concepts were integrated into the teaching syllabi covered, including gender-based violence, finding help and support, and puberty. However, a life skills-based HIV and sexuality education programme that could be integrated into a formal curriculum are missing from the syllabi. These include concepts such as sexual behaviour, reproduction, decision-making, communication, negotiation, refusal, and sexuality in the media.

For junior secondary school (ages 12-15) sexuality issues are included in core subjects: SRH is covered in social studies and civics, and science and environment also includes SHR. Expected outcomes are that students will demonstrate: enhanced knowledge and comprehension of reproductive health, sexuality, growth, and development; and life skills for improved interpersonal relationships, such as communicating and interacting effectively with others and making informed decisions and choices to promote risk-reducing behaviour. Additional electives and optional courses are also available, including physical health education, which covers SRH and diseases.

Learning resources

Teaching and learning materials resources that support the delivery of sexuality education in schools are available. Teaching and learning materials can range from activity guides or short videos to fully scripted lesson plans.


3.4. Teachers

According to the 2021 National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, the Toolkit for Enabling Inclusive Learning includes guidance and training. Schools must have clear policies around malpractice, misconduct, and abuse. This includes sound mechanisms for reporting misconduct or abuse, clarity on the consequences of misconduct or abuse, noting that any sexual abuse and exploitation by teachers is an offence. There also need to be clear sanctions for students found to be harassing other learners, particularly males harassing female learners, or the harassment of children with disabilities and any instances involving various forms of sexual harassment.

The syllabus of the five subjects that address CSE topics (social studies, environmental science, religious and moral education, home economics, and physical health education) includes the specific learning outcomes, assessment methods, and suggested learning teaching within the syllabus resources.


3.5. Schools

No information was found regarding access to school-based health services.


4. Governance

4.1 Responsible ministries

The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education is responsible for integrating CSE into primary education. Other key national stakeholders include the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, and the Teaching Service Commission.  

According to the 2021 National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, in 2019, the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education established a broad-based task force on SRH to advise the Minister and the Government on issues relating to the ‘radical inclusion’ of women and girls in Sierra Leone’s national development. The 27-member task force was responsible for commissioning and undertaking relevant research, developing white papers, and drafting relevant policy documents.

4.2. Level of responsibility/decentralization and autonomy

In Sierra Leone, the curricula and syllabi are developed centrally in the Ministry of Education. At the local level, local committees implement and monitor the policies that have been developed at the central level.

4.3. Government budget allocation

As part of the Government’s Human Capital Development expansion, the total budgetary allocation to the education sector was 1.4 trillion Leones representing 22 percent of total primary expenditures. However, no specific budget allocation just towards CSE was found.


5. Monitoring and reporting

According to the National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education (2020) regarding the provision of assessment and examinations in basic education, it is necessary to ensure that all aspects of the curriculum are assessed, including issues that some teachers may regard as controversial, such as CSE.

The 2019 Annual School Census Report noted one of the tools for data collection as a comprehensive questionnaire designed and to be used to collect data from different school levels. This included data on school instruction, including questions such as: ‘How many texts books are available for each subject in each class? Does the school have an ICT facility for learning? Does the school provide life skills-based HIV and sexuality education?’

All information related to the Annual School Census is publicly available in the Education Data Hub, a combined effort of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to present information from national examination results and the Annual School Census on a publicly available website.

Última modificación:

Sáb, 25/02/2023 - 15:32