By Collins Chirinda
Inadequate sexual reproductive health education in the country’s tertiary institutions has been identified as the main cause of recurrent sexually transmitted infections outbreaks, among others, in Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions with students calling on stakeholders to improve provision and accessibility of sexual and reproductive health services.
In a survey conducted in among some students in the country’s tertiary institutions who indicated that although strides have been made to improve sexual and reproductive health in the tertiary institutions, a huge deficit has been prevalent with some students expressing dissatisfaction by labelling the health services as “poor”.
“The health care facilities, to be honest, have a tendency to maximize profits but give very little attention to provision of healthcare to students. There is a huge imbalance with the amount of tuition fees we pay and the quality of health care services we get,” said Farai Gondo, a University of Zimbabwe student.
Gondo went on to lament the recurrence of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) in universities and credited it to poor information dissemination and poor peer support networks by universities’ health departments.
“I acknowledge that we receive health care but it is inadequate. Sexual and reproductive health facilities that we receive are mostly limited to condom use and sexual intercourse but nothing goes further than that,
“I think it at times we are not being informed on some issues relating to our health. One only hears of something and conducts research on a particular health issue when they are affected by a particular problem but we do not get that from our institutions,” he said.
Thelma Nyaumwe, a Politics and Public Management undergraduate student at Midlands State University (MSU) said the health care facilities were good but the only problem was with medical aid service providers whose services were limited in certain cases thus impacting negatively on health care provisions.
“You find out that we fail to access some health care services on a student medical aid because some of the medical aid subscriptions have limitations, especially for female students it becomes difficult to access specialist services but generally MSU’s health care facilities are good,” she said.
Sources inside the Health Services Board disclosed to this publication that all medical services in state universities have to be approved by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary education before operations commence but the provision of some health services lie primarily on the universities.
With the declining quality of health care, many students are exposed to diseases such as HIV and STI’s and in tertiary institutions where many students indulge in sexual intercourse, many are left exposed due to inadequate sexual and reproductive health education exposing them to contracting preventable diseases.
“Students end up getting infected because they succumb to peer pressure leading to indulgence in unprotected sex with many partners particularly with older men and women in the name of ‘having fun’. They also become reluctant to get tested so that they can know their status for fear of victimization and this leads to the spreading of diseases. Female students are the most vulnerable,” said Gondo.
Shingirai Mushokori, a Geography and Environmental Studies student said more needed to be done to improve the quality of sexual reproductive health in the country’s tertiary institutions.
“There is need for more outreach and conscientisation programs to educate students and raise awareness on sexual and reproductive issues. A more personal and vibrant technique is needed to make sure the message reaches the intended audience, stakeholders must ensure that they are thorough in implementing these programs,” he said.
The state of sexual health service provision in the country’s tertiary institutions has been on a dramatic decline because of its dependence on the drastically declining national health system due to the country’s deteriorating economy over the last two decades.