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A year 1980 memoir of a formal sex education lesson

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By Mundia Kamau

A memoir of the first formal sex education lesson for eleven year old Standard six primary school boys and girls, Kenya, the year 1980: The subject was General Science, the teacher, a Mr. Kamau, and the lesson, as mentioned, sex education. Mr. Kamau was a short bearded teacher, about five foot, five inches tall, who looked somewhat like Dr. Jonas Savimbi of Angola, one time head of the rebel movement in Angola, UNITA i.e. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

Large artwork charts of the anatomy of both a man and a woman were placed at the front of the classroom, about 30 of us per class back in those days, an even number of both boys and girls.

Mr. Kamau was clear and categorical at the start of the General Science class that particular day in 1980, that today we would learn a “new topic” called sex, and that he would not tolerate “any nonsense, smiles, giggles or laughter” during the course of the lesson on sex education.

He had in his right hand a cane, which he said he would not hesitate to use. Back in those days too, primary school teachers in Kenya could slap both boys and girls on the face, or give boys what we refer to as “ng’otos” here in Kenya i.e. mildly hard hits to the top of the head with the knuckles of one’s hand.

This was not easy for Mr. Kamau, and this we could tell from his facial expressions and his body language. Mr. Kamau notably and clearly tense with “the sooner this is over, the better” written all over him.
Mr. Kamau actually spent very limited time on intros, and sort of just directly dived into the topic of the day.

Pointing to the male chart with the mentioned cane in his right hand, Mr. Kamau went:

“This on a body of a Human Being, a male, is called a penis.”
Mr. Kamau then went dead silent as he intensely scrutinised each and every corner of the classroom for “smiles, giggles or laughter.” There was pindrop silence all round for about a minute. We the pupils were just as tense as Mr. Kamau, none of us daring to “smile, giggle or laugh.”

Mr. Kamau continued:
“This on a body of a Human Being, a female, is called a vagina.”
Another minute of torturous tense seemingly unending pindrop silence:
“These on a body of a Human Being, a female, are called a breasts.”
No one got singled out for a caning, slaps or “ng’otos” that day back in 1980, credit to all we pupils. Mr. Kamau was also clearly drained of energy at the end of the lesson.

There is actually nothing we already did not know that Mr. Kamau told us that day in that General Science class back in 1980, despite the fact that we were eleven year old boys and girls. Quite a number of us had already had sex, and a good number too would in the immediate and not too distant years ahead of us, so that General Science class on sex back on that day in 1980 was actually an exercise in futility. We actually remember it for the tension and “threats of disciplinary action,” more than anything else.

Looking back, gradual internalised physiological and biological changes and developments in the anatomy of both boys and girls, men and women, males and females, trigger naturalised sexual consciousness and awareness in all Human Beings, if for nothing more, the sexual reproduction and survival of the Human species, which is one of the reasons Mr. Kamau did not impact anything meaningful on our lives back on that day in 1980.

Long before Mr. Kamau’s class in 1980, as early as the ages of 8 and 9 years old, 6 and 7 years old even, our generation of boys began making note of certain sexual sensualities in us, certain sexual attractions in us for the opposite sex, and sexual desires for the opposite sex.

For example, watching girls and women bath by a river or a lake, gave us such a kick and such major memorable erections. Looking back, the girls and women knew they were being watched, something they also got a kick out of.

Many of us did not however dare go beyond watching back then, because of the threats of getting into big trouble that we got back then from our parents, our guardians, our priests and society in general.

In the first place, by just watching, we were already doing something wrong, for which we would pay heavily for “in hell.” But if we dared go beyond just watching and had sex with a girl or a woman, we would get into even bigger and deeper trouble with God, and this time, with the Government too. The thought of getting into trouble with both the Government and God at the same time, was a very frightening prospect that scared us massively and immensely.

Looking back, our generation of girls too were also experiencing their own physiological changes and developments back then. Quite a number of them would rub themselves sensually, sexually and vigourously on us in crowded environments, using the crowded environments as very apt excuses e.g. “Ah, this place is so crowded and we are now being forced to squeeze against each other against out wish.”

We loved the crowded environments where we were “forced to squeeze against each other,” but then again, Government and God immediately came to mind. Quite a number of girls of our generation had already began growing breasts at the time, which they also rubbed vigourously on us “unintentionally” in crowded environments, but again yes, that Government and God thing. Indoctrination and manipulation can be very effective, can’t they? For example, “Government and God.”

It simply cannot be overemphasised how many of the boys of our generation, now fully grown men, wish that the clock of time could be reversed to those times and those subtle seductive mating rituals in those crowded environments back then. We were already in trouble at the time, and were already “going to hell” for watching girls and women bath by the river, so extending it to “actual mating” would have gotten us into even deeper trouble with God yes, but not the Government. That we have long now realised.

Long before Mr. Kamau’s General Science sex education class of 1980, our generation of boys and girls were well aware of our sexuality. It’s the way we were created, it’s part of our physiological and biological makeup, if only for the the survival of the Human species by way of sexual reproduction.

In the strict sense of the word actually, Human Beings, mature Human Beings able to support themselves and a family, should be “mating” only once a year, for the sole purpose of child birth and the survival of the Human species.

However boys and girls, men and women, get sexually aroused all year round and all week round, from January to January, from Sunday to Sunday, so on the other hand, sexual intercourse in relation to our physiological and biological makeups cannot be said to be an event that should be strictly restricted to once a year only, for the sole purpose of child birth.

There is something both right and wrong about sexual intercourse, and there is still so much not understood about sex, otherwise sex would still not be amongst the most uncomfortable subjects and topics to discuss the world over, a good example being how Mr. Kamau handled his sex education class back in 1980.

Human Beings are different components in one, the body, the mind and the soul. There is the physical side and psychic side in all Human Beings, the physicality and spirituality in all Human Beings.

So we cannot and should not be solely guided by our physical makeup and physical desires. Yes we are animals, but there is more to us than just our physical makeup. We all get sexually aroused just about every minute of the day actually, but that alone is not reason enough at all to engage in sexual intercourse as and when we please, because we are also physic and spiritual beings, and for Human Beings to function optimally the physical, spiritual and physic must be in sync and tandem, in full and total agreement. Our purpose here anyway is not to solely have sex.

Strictly speaking actually, a man or woman, should first and foremost be in tune with himself or herself physically, spiritually and psychically before venturing out to have sexual intercourse, and not just that, two individuals having sexual intercourse with each other, a man and a woman, must be in tune with each other too at all three levels i.e. physically, spiritually and psychically. Sex and sexual intercourse are much deeper than our approach to them through the ages.

We, all of us without exception and regardless of age, do indeed need Mr. Kamau type sex education classes, Mr. Kamau himself included, but in much more deeper, structured and defined ways. Our approach all these centuries has been too shallow, to both life in general and sexual intercourse in particular.

And what became of Mr. Kamau? Looking back, he was about 35 years of age back then in 1980, which would make him about 75 years of age today in 2020.


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