Comprehensive Sexuality Education

1. Context and background

2. Terminology

3. Laws and policies

4. Governance

5. Monitoring and reporting


1. Context and background

Since independence in 1990, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in Namibia has been mainstreamed in government programmes, such as the School Health and the Life Skills Education programmes. Strong political commitment, together with high rates of adolescent pregnancy, increased HIV infections among young people, and high levels of discrimination against people living with HIV & AIDS, and stigmatization, motivated the adoption and rollout of CSE in the school curriculum through Life Skills Education. In addition, with 66% of the population below the age of 30 and 43% of new HIV infections occurring among young people aged 15-24, the scale-up of the programme in schools was considered necessary. The Government also introduced 'My Future is My Choice' as an extra-curricular programme in the late 1990s in response to the impact of HIV & AIDS in the education sector. This reinforced and deepened related content in the teaching of life skills, biology and life science. Information on sexual health was designed to reach young people at secondary level and develop their skills to make safe choices related to their sexual health, and included themes such as risky behaviours. In 2004, the 'Window of Hope' programme was developed for primary school students as an after-school activity that aimed to increase students' self-esteem and build their knowledge and skills to protect themselves against HIV, as well as develop compassion for those living with the virus. The official scale-up of the Life Skills Education programme started in 2012/13 through the curriculum review and was boosted following the signing of the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa in December 2013. Scaling-up initiatives included strengthening and refining the curriculum, developing teaching and learning materials, teacher training, the appointment of Life Skills Education teachers, integrating sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and Life Skills Education components into the School Health programme, awareness raising among key stakeholders, and strengthening the monitoring of Life Skills Education in the national EMIS.  

However, in 2021, resistance from faith-based organizations claiming that the programme was 'promoting sexual promiscuity among young people' pressurized the Government into rejecting the Ministerial Commitment. Some life-skills teachers have expressed lack of confidence and discomfort in dealing with sensitive sexuality-related topics and some parents are resistant to communicating with their children about these themes. Following negative publicity and misinformation about the Life Skills Education programme, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture organized a special meeting, inviting over 120 faith-based and religious leaders, to clarify any misconceptions around CSE and to ensure better understanding and gain their support. The Government has been committed to continuing to engage with partners to advocate for CSE. 


2. Terminology

Comprehensive sexuality education is referred to as 'Life Skills Education' in the school curriculum, with the term 'comprehensive sexuality education' used to describe the content of the programme in key legal and policy documents, such as the 2020 Basic Education Act and the 2017/18-2021/22 National Strategic Framework on HIV. The 2010-20 National Gender Policy refers to 'Sexual Reproductive Health Education'. 


3. Laws and policies

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

At the international level, Namibia has ratified a number of commitments related to sexuality education, such as the the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)  .  

The table below provides a summary of how the international commitments relate to sexuality education. 



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

Ratification date: 1992 

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: 2007  

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

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 

Ratification date: 1994 

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

UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education 

Not ratified 

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.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action 


Calls for sexuality education, counselling and support mechanisms for adolescents, and identifies essential topics. 

UN General Assembly 2016 Political Declaration 

on HIV and AIDS 

Includes commitments and calls to scale up and/or attention to scientifically accurate age- and culturally-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. 

Commission on the Status of Women 2016 Resolution on Women, the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS 

Includes commitments to make universally accessible and available quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health-care services, commodities, information and education. 



Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) 

Ratification date: 2013

Commits to ensuring comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people. 


3.2. Relevant national laws and policies mandating comprehensive sexuality education

Namibia has a strong legal and policy framework that underscores the importance of CSE delivery and SRH services, the Government’s commitment to expanding and intensifying the programme and to providing associated services in primary and secondary schools. The importance of CSE is highlighted in laws, policies and strategic plans across different sectors and ministries (including education, gender and health).  

In the 2020 Basic Education Act, the Ministry of Education is required to develop a learner pregnancy policy that must address the 'teaching of comprehensive sexuality education to all learners from grade four or at an appropriate age', the 'teaching of life skills education by trained teachers', and the need for school counsellors and health professionals to provide 'training and regular information sharing on reproductive health topics'. The Ministry must 'strengthen the life skills curriculum in schools with a strong emphasis on prevention'. The 2015 Child Care and Protection Act stipulates that prevention and early intervention services must address specific issues such as 'gender-based violence' and 'reproductive and sexual health issues'. Teacher education and development are guided by the National Professional Standards for Teachers.  

The 2003 National Policy on HIV/AIDS for the Education Sector notes the rights and responsibilities of every individual involved in education with regard to HIV & AIDS, stating that 'learners and students must receive education about HIV and AIDS on an ongoing basis in the context of sexual health and life skills education'. The Policy states that 'stand-alone life skills, sexual health, and HIV and AIDS education programs should be reinforced through inclusion of these topics in the whole curriculum', that information should be presented in a 'scientific but understandable way' and that 'appropriate course content should be included in the pre-service and in-service training of educators to enable them to adequately respond to HIV and AIDS in schools'. The 2010 Education Sector Policy for the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy aims to enhance sexual health education and assist students to develop a sense of responsibility to help prevent learner pregnancies. It states that 'schools shall strive to ensure that learners, both boys and girls, are educated about the benefits of abstinence, the risks of engaging in sexual activity at a young age, appropriate use of contraception, and the right of both male and female learners to free and informed choice in respect of sexual matters. A trained and full-time life skills teacher is required to adequately fulfil this task.' One of the aims of the 2010-20 National Gender Policy published by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the accompanying 2010-20 Coordination Mechanism for the Implementation of the National Gender Policy is to 'improve women and men’s health, including reproductive health, and prevention/ management of HIV and AIDS', which includes establishing a 'common understanding and redefining concepts of manhood and masculinity through Sexual and Reproductive Health Education' and 'removing, in collaboration with all stakeholders, all legal, social and cultural barriers to sexual and reproductive health education'. The 2012 National Policy on Sexual, Reproductive and Child Health also states that 'all Namibians shall be provided with accurate information, education and counselling about sexual and reproductive health that is age-appropriate and sensitive to the needs of Namibian men and women'. The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture is specifically mandated to 'provide education for boys, girls, men and women on the prevention of early and unintended pregnancy, reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and Maternal, Newborn, Child Health and Nutrition', with elements of reproductive health care required to be included in both education and counselling. The importance of CSE is also included in the 2006 School Health and Nutrition Policy, the 2008 Education Sector Policy for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the 2013 Sector Policy on Inclusive Education.  

The integration and scaling up of CSE is also included in national strategic plans. The 2017/18-2021/22 Education Strategic Plan identifies 'increasing teenage and learner pregnancy' as a threat, and aims for curriculum review and HIV & AIDS awareness to be ensured at all education levels. The 2017/18-2021/22 National Strategic Framework on HIV published by the Ministry of Health and Social Services specifically aims to 'strengthen Life Skills and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)' and 'sensitize teachers especially life skills and school-based counsellors on how to present sexual orientation and gender identity in the curriculum'. In addition, the 2012-16 National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence aims to 'provide school-going youth with a comprehensive orientation to gender-based violence issues as part of the official school curriculum, starting from pre-school'. There is no mention of CSE in the latest 2019-24 National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.  


3.3. Curricula

CSE in Namibia (known as Life Skills Education) is part of the school curriculum from upper primary to secondary level (grades 4-12). It is included in the 2016 National Curriculum for Basic Education (life skills), with specific guidelines developed for the subject, such as the 2015 Life Skills Subject Policy Guide Grades 4–12 and the Life Skills Teachers’ Manual Grades 5-7 (or for grades 11-12). Namibia’s Life Skills Education programme is informed by UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education and the 2017/18 -2021/22 National Strategic Framework on HIV. It demands that a full-time life-skills teacher delivers the subject in schools with over 250 students. Guidelines include information on content, time allocation, subjects, year plans, classroom displays, assessment, and teacher training. One 45-minute period every five days is dedicated to sexuality education for grades 4-7, which increases to two 45-minute periods in grades 8-12. Students at the lower primary level (aged 7-9) are reached through the 'Window of Hope' programme, environmental studies, natural science and health education. Life Skills Education is the main carrier subject for CSE. Elements of the programme were strengthened in the development of the new education curriculum in 2012-13, and some modules from the 'My Future My Choice' programme were included. The Life Skills Education programme was also improved during curriculum reforms in 2016 .The reforms informed the next iteration of the Life Skills Education curriculum, which included capacity building of curriculum developers in CSE.  

The 'My Future My Choice' programme provides for CSE interventions to young people aged 15-24 within their communities through community-based peer educators. The 'Window of Hope' programme is delivered for grades 6-7 to help students understand the concepts of sex and sexuality, empower them to protect themselves and others against HIV & AIDS, and fight the stigmatization of people living with the virus.  

The Ministry of Sports, Youth and National Services is responsible for the provision of CSE to out-of-school youth, through the development of the out-of-school CSE curriculum (with support from UNFPA).   

Mandatory or optional

Life Skills Education (as a stand-alone subject) is mandatory at both upper primary and secondary level. It is continuously assessed but is not examinable. In grades 1-3, CSE content is integrated into environmental studies, natural science, health education, and the extra-curricular programme, 'Window of Hope'. In grades 4-12, it is mainly taught as the stand-alone Life Skills Education subject, in addition to being integrated into subjects such as biology and life science.  (UNESCO, 2017; APHRC, 2019).  

Comprehensiveness of content

While Life Skills Education was originally an HIV-focused programme in the school curriculum, it has evolved into a holistic programme on health and well-being, encompassing topics such as gender, puberty, adolescent and reproductive health, sexual orientation, gender equality and empowerment, adolescent pregnancy, child marriage, and gender-based violence. Through this holistic approach, the aim is for students to become empowered with the appropriate information and skills so that they can make responsible decisions. Life Skills Education covers three themes: guidance, holistic wellness, and civic affairs. Most CSE content is covered under the holistic wellness theme through topics such as HIV and population education. The broad topic of HIV includes HIV prevention, HIV testing, counselling on HIV, living with HIV, and supporting people who live with HIV. At primary level, population education covers values and issues relating to puberty, gender and sex, SRH, self-identity, abstinence, and risky sexual behaviours. At secondary level, it covers child-headed households, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, contraceptives, intergenerational sex, baby dumping, and gender-based violence (APHRC, 2019).  

According to an analysis by UNESCO’s Sexuality Education Review and Assessment Tool (SERAT) in 2015, the programme was judged to have clear cognitive, affective and skills-based objectives, in addition to clear public health objectives that intend to reduce early and unwanted pregnancy, STIs, HIV, and gender-based violence.   

Learning resources

Teaching and learning materials were developed and revised by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture for more effective delivery of the Life Skills Education programme. Standard textbooks support the sexuality education programme, while all students receive a copy of the training manuals. Quality teaching materials are made available to all schools, including a sexuality education teaching guide that is used by educators across the country. According to the 2015 Life Skills Subject Policy Guide for grades 4–12, Life Skills Education textbooks are available. The Life Skills Education teacher is responsible for controlling the use and distribution of the textbooks and students are taught to look after them and respect them as important resources. 


3.4. Teachers

Recognizing the importance of the Life Skills programme, in 2011, the Namibian Government started appointing full-time, specialized Life Skills Education teachers to support the implementation of the programme in all schools. Schools with over 250 students are required to have a dedicated Life Skills Education teacher. Schools that do not qualify are required to have a designated teacher and counsellor to offer Life Skills Education and counselling services. This initiative was started by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to ensure that the programme is optimally delivered, as it is considered to be extremely important. 

Teacher training in CSE includes both pre-service and in-service training and is guided by the National Professional Standards for Teachers in Namibia (for pre-service training) and the Namibia Qualifications Authority (for pre- and in-service training). Pre-service training in sexuality education is included in the curriculum and offered on a full-time basis to all teachers (pre-primary, primary and secondary). A sexuality education course is compulsory for all first-year student teachers, while guidance and counselling is a compulsory module for third-year student teachers. The University of Namibia offers Life Skills Education as a career specialization option. Sexuality education is also included in in-service teacher training at all education levels (pre-primary, primary, secondary). The 2003 National Policy on HIV/AIDS for the Education Sector includes details on teacher training and guidance on sexuality, sexual health and HIV & AIDS, while the 2015 Life Skills Subject Policy Guide Grades 4–12 lists the responsibilities of Life Skills Education teachers.  

Full-time Life Skills Education teachers receive ongoing training. The percentage of teachers trained in Life Skills Education increased from 42% in 2017 to 70% in 2019. In 2021, there were approximately 2,000 full-time life skills teachers who had received ongoing training.  


3.5. Schools

At the school level, Life Skills Education teachers act as teacher counsellors and refer students in need to the appropriate available services such as social workers, health services and other forms of social benefits. The Life Skills Education programme is also complemented by the School Health programme and the integrated school health training manual, which integrates components of CSE and SRH services. A Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of the School Health programme has been signed by the health and education ministers. According to the 2020 Basic Education Act, health professionals and school counsellors in schools must provide regular information on reproductive health topics and refer pregnant students to social workers at the ministry responsible for child welfare. Under the section 'school health services' of the Act, the Minister of Education is responsible for developing an appropriate school health policy in consultation with the minister responsible for health, which incorporates the Integrated School Health programme and 'ensures that appropriate assessment, treatment, care and support services including psycho-social services are available and accessible to all learners who are identified as requiring them'. The 2003 National Policy on HIV/AIDS for the Education Sector also states that 'all educational institutions should identify the most appropriate staff and /or external facilitators and systems to ensure that support and counselling services are rendered to learners and students infected' and that 'learners and students living with HIV should be treated in a just, humane and life-affirming way and [be] provided with support and counselling'. School-based health interventions are also highlighted in the 2012 National Policy on Sexual, Reproductive and Child Health and the 2015 Life Skills Subject Policy Guide for grades 4-12. 


4. Governance

4.1 Responsible ministries

The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture  is responsible for the design and implementation of the Life Skills Education and School Health programmes, with a dedicated unit responsible for coordinating the HIV response and gender mainstreaming.  

The Ministry of Health and Social Services  provides youth-friendly services and information to ensure healthy lifestyles and school health programmes.  

The National School Health Taskforce, which is chaired by the health and education ministries, is responsible for tMinisterial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa. 

In addition, the Ministry of Sports, Youth and National Services  provides CSE and SRH services to out-of-school youth through youth centres, in partnership with Namibia Planned Parenthood Association.  

4.2. Level of responsibility/decentralization and autonomy

At the regional level, coordination mechanisms for the Ministerial Commitment to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African have been established within all 14 regions (the administrative divisions of the country) at various degrees of functionality. Specifically, the Ohangwena and Khomas regions have each established a Youth Health Task Force, which is a coordination platform of stakeholders working on improving SRH and lives of the country’s young people. These multisectoral task forces provide more accessible youth-friendly SRH services and aim to increase the uptake of these services by the youth of the 14 regions. The task forces operate under the leadership of government ministries involved in youth well-being and civil society organizations.  

4.3. Government budget allocation

Of the 72.8 billion national budget in 2020/21, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture was allocated 21%, while the allocation to the HIV & AIDS response was 64%. There has been mention of funds being set aside for the implementation of CSE in schools, but it is not clear how or through which Ministry the funds would be channelled.  


5. Monitoring and reporting

The national EMIS tracks the delivery of CSE in Namibia. Sexuality education indicators are integrated into the EMIS and responsible officers are trained in the relevant data collection and reporting on the indicators. Monitoring has been further strengthened by HIV & AIDS indicators also being incorporated into the EMIS. EMIS focal persons at sub-national, local and school levels are trained in the collection of the relevant data and reporting on the new indicators. The School Health programme is also monitored through the monitoring system of the Ministry of Health and Social Services.  

EMIS data from 2019 shows that approximately 97% of schools in Namibia delivered Life Skills Education to students in grades 4-12, while SRH was covered in 87% of the schools and HIV transmission and prevention was covered in 90% of schools (UNESCO, 2021).  

Last modified:

Fri, 24/02/2023 - 19:09