The Blank Slate of Sexual Education in the Chinese Countryside
As Chinese youth are exposed to more and more sex via the Internet in China’s rapidly expanding economy, the education system still has to catch up to their newfound curiosity. Even many schools in Beijing have only recently started true sex education classes, and these only usually begin in high school. There is an inconsistency in the way that China is becoming increasingly liberalized in some ways, but not quickly enough in some important ways and the problem of sexual education illuminates this (you can see the progression of abortion rates here). A number of horrific incidents have occurred recently, including a young woman giving birth in a toilet. Here is a recent article in the Slate concerning the lack of sex education in China. The following story provides a detailed description of the reaction of a small town to the incident of a 14-year old girl giving birth with no one ever noticing she was pregnant.
While the other farmers of northern Guangdong are celebrating the much-needed rainfalls, 42-year old Deng Decai has locked herself at home, unremittingly smoking and sighing. Even in his dreams he never would have thought that only a week earlier, his 14-year old daughter Deng Chunhua would secretly give birth to a baby boy in her dorm room and proceed to throw the baby boy out the 5th floor window.
The tragedy happened on November 4th at a junior high in Aobei. According to local sources, one morning Deng Chunhua felt stomach pains and decided to not go to class and gave birth to a baby boy in her dormitory. The birth petrified Deng Chunhua, she was terrified of being reprimanded by her parents and despised by her classmates, so she put the baby in a black plastic bag and threw it out her window. However, the bag landed near the school walls and was discovered by a teacher later that day.
The above story was confirmed by the school principal. After the baby was discovered, the school immediately sent the physically weak Deng Chunhua to the hospital.
On November 6th, Deng Chunhua was taken away by the police. Yu Fu, the school principal says that the question of whether or not the baby was thrown out of the window by her and how she got pregnant will have to be officially confirmed by police investigations.
The news soon led to heated discussion on other issues in the quiet town, the local residents are extremely dissatisfied with the local education system and forms of supervision. When a new student registers at a school, there should be a physical examination, how can no one notice that a young girl is pregnant while attending a school? However, during interviews, her classmates and parents all thought that she had merely gained weight.
“She had only been in school for two months and teachers and students all thought that it was just body fat,” Xu, the vice-president of the school told reporters. The school does have a physical exam when students enter the school, but it is scheduled in December.” Xu does admit that the school cannot avoid supervision duties and responsibility, and after the incident the school had an emergency meeting to discuss and summarize the incident.
Seven kilometers away from the school outside the small village, the reporter found the girl’s father Deng Decai. Upon seeing the reporters, Deng Decai unceasingly blamed himself, “I am to blame! A few months ago, Chunhua’s mother was washing clothes by the river and neighbors mentioned that Chunhua looked pregnant, but I said, she’s so young, it’s impossible, she’s just gained weight.”
Even now, Deng Decai has no idea when her daughter was impregnated. Deng Decai has three children, two boys and one girl, Deng Chunhua is his second child, and Deng Decai has always felt that Chunhua a sensible and obedient daughter, she never went online, and never got involved with riff-raff. Everyday when she got home from school she would help her mother with household chores.
This is a tragedy that should not have happened, besides the future of these junior high girls, what worries one even more is that when tragic incidents are increasingly more frequent, there is not attempt to change the fact that there is a lack of sex education at home and at school.
This case in northern Guangdong is not an isolated incident, on December 18th, 2008, Cong Hua, who should have been entering into the second year of junior high, gave birth to a baby boy; on October 15th, 2009, a 17-year old at a school in Southern China gave birth to a baby boy in her school dorm. Similar to the case of Chunhua, the parents, teachers, and classmates of these two girls had no idea that the girls were pregnant, the two girls also chose to be silent and secretly dispose of the babies.
“If I had known about the effects of teenage pregnancy, much of this sorrow could have completely been avoided,” Chunhua’s school director told reporters. There is basically no sexual education at schools in the countryside in China, these schools often have health classes, but once they reach the topic of sex and sexual organs, many teachers will allow students to self-learn, this type of avoidance is very dangerous in a generation of curious youth who are exposed to sex very early via the Internet, these adolescents have no sense of methods of birth control, and many times when they become pregnant, it is only understood to be weight gain.
“In our small town, no one has the nerve to talk to small girls about sex, if the girl is 17 or 18, the mother may remind her.” Deng Decai and the other farmers in his small town are not prepared to handle pregnancies of teenagers born in the 90’s.
During the interviews, the reporter found that many students did not know who to turn to to talk about their problems. They feared criticism from their teachers, contempt from classmates, and were not willing to communicate personal issues to adults at their school, and their parents were often busy in the fields all day.
The director of the school, Zhang, told reporters that the school plans to open psychological counseling rooms to help students in the uncertainty of their teenage years. Still, the school is unsure how useful these counseling rooms will actually be.