Basic Education dismisses claims by Doctors Without Borders

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has dismissed claims by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) that the roll-out of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for secondary school learners in South Africa is on hold.

“The allegation that the roll-out of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for secondary school learners in South Africa is on hold is false, and inaccurate,” the department said in a statement.

The department has also noted with concern and disappointment, the misleading statements from Doctors Without Borders in which they allege that the policy on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is not being implemented.

“The department has made a commitment to provide learners with comprehensive sexual education and direct health services at schools and the work is continuing as we speak.

“The DBE National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for Learners, Educators, Schools Support Staff and Officials in the Basic Education Sector is now at School Advocacy and Implementation Level,” the department said.

Between 14 February 2018 and 30 August 2018, policy advocacy workshops were conducted in all nine provinces.

The workshops were attended by officials from Provincial and District Education, Health and Social Development Departments, Provincial Aids Councils and partners implementing SRH programmes.

Provincial advocacy implementation plans were developed during the meetings and provinces are at different stages of the implementation plans.

The department has further developed Sexuality Education Scripted Lesson Plans (SLPs) on Sexuality Education in the Life Orientation Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). SLPs for Grades 7 – 9 were finalised and approved in 2017 and these were piloted in FS, GP, KZN, MPU, and WC provinces.

The department has finalised reviewing the draft SLPs for Gr 4 – 6 and 10 – 12 which were piloted in the same provinces.

Since 2012, the department has been offering health services to learners through the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) including education on Sexual Reproductive Health Services and referral to health facilities for the service.

“Since the new policy makes provision for SRH services, the department has since updated the package of Health services in the ISHP to include, the provision of SRH services in the school package including making condoms available and HIV Counselling and Testing,” the department said.

Noting that parents and schools were complaining about learners being tested without their consent and possible disturbance of teaching and learning due to lack of coordinated service provision in schools, some provinces resolved to suspend SRH services in schools.

In this regard, the ISHP task team with the assistance of the USAID, developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for health services in schools to guide the testing of learners and teachers including school access and parental consent.

Consultations on the SOPs were conducted in 2018 and the final draft will be released in a week’s time once all internal processes have been finalised.

“It is therefore disingenuous for MSF to make allegations that suggest that the department is not fulfilling its commitment on this matter. MSF representatives are fully aware of the work being done as they have been consulted as well.

“The guidelines they mention are actually being finalized for release next week.” –