The education department said on Sunday that fake news and false media reports were hurting the debate on the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) component of the Life Orientation curriculum.
“False reporting by some media organisations and fake news have created unnecessary confusion and anxiety among parents in particular,” said department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
“The department therefore wishes to distance itself from a series of images that have been circulated on social media in recent weeks. These images are not part of the books produced by the department.”
Parent24 recently reported that parents and teachers were in uproar in recent weeks, in response to alleged updates to the CSE leaked by the African Christian Democratic Party and shared by FOR SA.
Mhlanga said members of the public had been contacting them about videos with incorrect information that were being distributed on social media.
He said social media had been an integral part of a “fake news campaign” against the department.
“The department is aware of a lobby group against CSE that is creating misleading social media posts and feeding the public contaminated information. One of the many images shows adults in bed with graphic details. Another piece of fake news says the department will distribute condoms with stationery in 2020. There is also a video of an individual spreading wrong and potentially harmful information.”
Parents were urged to verify with the department before trusting information published by certain organisations and individuals.
Mhlanga said the purpose of CSE was to address issues such as sexual abuse, HIV infections, pupil pregnancy, bullying and peer pressure, to help pupils stay in school until they completed Grade 12.
The department also addressed reports stating that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga had told parents they could opt out of the current curriculum.
Mhlanga said Motshekga’s response to a Parliamentary question had meant that a parent could opt out by seeking another curriculum offered at a Cambridge or IEB school, not that they could opt out of specific sections of the curriculum.
“In other words the Minister said nothing new other than to remind of the general provisions available regarding the choice parents have when deciding on where to enrol their children,” he said.
“Parents are also free, and indeed, encouraged, to look into any aspect of what their children are taught in any subject at any time. It’s all available to them in various ways. The department has now made available all the scripted lesson plans for people to read and review.”
He said the department would continue engaging with concerned citizens who had an input to make regarding the scripted lesson plans on CSE in particular and Life Orientation in general.