There has been a lot of speculation, “fake” news, and upset over the department of basic education’s (DBE) Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) that forms part of the Life Orientation curriculum. So, what are the facts?
1. The CSE has been part of the curriculum for almost 20 years
The notion of “sex ed” is not new and the CSE has been part of school studies since 2000. However, to ensure standardised and quality delivery of sex ed in schools, the DBE has developed Scripted Lesson Plans (SLP). This is the new part. That schools will have a prescribed and uniform teaching methodology for these incredibly sensitive and complicated subjects.
2. Sexual rights, health, and safety among adolescents in SA is problematic
South Africa has an incredibly high level of learner pregnancies, which have many negative consequences to the learners, especially girls, and society at large. There is also a high number of incidents of HIV infections among adolescents, much higher than the country average, meaning young people are more likely to be infected than adults. In addition, more than a third of girls and boys experience sexual violence before the age of 17. The DBE believes that given the inclusion of CSE for so many years without a significant shift in behaviour, the curriculum and how that curriculum is taught needs to be relooked.
3. The content of these SLPs is age-appropriate and scientifically accurate
“The SLPs use a human rights approach which allows adolescents and young people to develop appropriate life skills to support healthy choices and promote gender equality,” said the DBE.
The SLPs have been designed to give teachers a way to teach scientifically accurate, evidence-informed, incremental, age-appropriate and culturally appropriate sexuality education, in an attempt to lessen discomfort and empower them to confidently discuss these topics, as well as providing the learners with a clear, factual, systematic and non-judgmental education on sexuality.
The content is framed to address key themes around relationships, rights, values, culture, gender, violence, sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, biology, and sexual behaviour.
The content and language shift significantly based on the age of the learner.
So, Grade 4 (10-year-old) learners will learn about respecting their own bodies and respecting the bodies of others. They will come to grips with the basics of HIV and AIDS, something that many children in South Africa will have come face to face with by the time they reach Grade 4. And they will learn how to deal with their emotions, bullying, and conflict.
A Grade 8 (14-year-old) will learn about healthy and unhealthy messages about their gender, making sexual choices, knowing their limits and the risks of pregnancy, as well as knowing that sexuality and sex are not the same thing.
By Grade 11 (17 years old), they will be learning about the consequences of risky behaviour, staying in control, staying healthy, and choosing positive role models.
4. Sexuality education does not sexualise children or increase sexual activity
According to prevailing global research, from numerous sources, CSE actually prevents adolescents from entering into sexual relationships too early, increases safe and responsible sexual behaviour, knowledge and understanding of different aspects of sexuality and decreases the incidences of early and/or unwanted pregnancy, HIV infections and the contraction of other STIs.
CSE has also shown to decrease the number of sexual partners an adolescent may have, reduces sexual risk-taking and increases the use of condoms and other forms of contraception.
The DBE is clear in their statement that this type of education does not sexualise of children or rob them of their innocence, it is not a curriculum focused on teaching sexual pleasure but on prevention of HIV, STIs, early and unintended pregnancy, healthy lifestyle choices, and avoidance of risky behaviours.
“The core aim of the CSE and its SLPs is to ensure that we help learners build an understanding of concepts, content, values and attitudes related to sexuality, sexual behaviour change as well as leading safe and healthy lives,” said the DBE in a statement.
You can download all the SLPs for both learners and teachers here.
(Compiled by Leigh Tayler)