Sex education does not sexualise children – department

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Basic Education Department (DBE) has rejected what it calls the “misrepresentation of facts regarding some of the content” in its Life Orientation subject. 

Last month, the department clarified the matter and went further to provide details of what is contained in the sexuality section of the curriculum. 

“We have noted with concern that a certain organization persists in misleading the public by publishing the wrong information resulting in unnecessary confusion and panic among South Africans. We have done our best to help by providing information but they refuse to understand and instead choose to mislead the public,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga. 

The department's statement comes as the department plans to roll out new Life Orientation textbooks next year.

The department reiterated that no new content has been added to the Life Orientation subject in schools but added that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) has been part of the curriculum since the year 2000.

CSE seeks to provide learners with sexual education while addressing the social ills such as teenage pregnancy and sexual violence that exist in society.

The department rejected the notion that CSE sexualises children.

“It is mischievous to pull one liners from the scripted lesson plans to create improper and baseless impressions about the curriculum. The lessons focus on teaching about the respect for self, for the body of others; and most importantly, for children to identify inappropriate physical interactions,” said Mhlanga.

The department conducts tests of the scripted lesson plans in high-burden districts, where there are high teenage pregnancy, birth and HIV rates. The School Governing Body, School Management Team, teachers and parents are orientated on the lessons, as it is our principle to orientate parents when we introduce new lesson plans.

In seeking to find a comprehensive and all-encompassing curriculum that seeks to address real world challenges and issues faced by learners in their day-to-day lives, the department has through various consultation platforms allowed for the evolution of the content within both the Learner and Teacher Guides.

“It is unfortunate and bordering on mischievous that certain organisations persist to misinform the public with outdated lesson plans (Used during the pilot phase) that have been shared across public platforms with the view to not only misinform but discredit the departments comprehensive plan,” said Mhlanga.

According to the department, the core aim of the CSE is to ensure that learners build an understanding of concepts, content, values and attitudes related to sexuality, sexual behavior change as well as leading safe and healthy lives. 

“The department is extremely concerned that there seems to be lower sexual debut and increasing risky sexual behaviour amongst adolescents and HIV prevention knowledge has declined amongst learners,” said Mhlanga.

The 2016 review of International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education found that the evidence base for CSE had expanded since 2008. This rigorous scientific review found:

  • CSE does not sexualise children;
  • Sexuality education does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour or STI/HIV infection rates. On the contrary, CSE delays sexual debut and promotes safe sexual behavior; 
  • Increases knowledge of different aspects of sexuality and the risks of early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs;
  • Decreases the number of sexual partners;
  • Reduces sexual risk taking;
  • Increases use of condoms and other forms of contraception.

The department said while it has consulted extensively on CSE, it remains open to further consultation and engagement on this matter.  –