Defend Truth


It’s not the right time for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in South Africa


Mduduzi Mbiza is a Pretoria-born writer.

Financial freedom is the bigger and pressing issue, we should start there and leave sex education to parents.

There’s a saying: “We are what we repeatedly do.” The Department of Basic Education has ruined South Africa’s basic education system by repeatedly doing what they do badly, not best.

Yet again we are at the centre of another debate, after that one about Swahili and that one about making history a compulsory subject. This time around it’s about sex, or Comprehensive Sexuality Education for the sake of being fancy and formal. The department wants to teach sex to Grade 4 pupils.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is not just any type of information in an education system, it’s beyond that.

At its core, Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a sex education instruction method that aims to give students the knowledge, attitudes, skills and values to make appropriate and healthy choices in their sexual lives. Well, at least that’s what’s expected of it and what it’s meant to achieve.

According to a global review study by UNESCO, a study in Kenya involving more than 6,000 students who had received sexuality education led to delayed sexual initiation and increased condom use among those who were sexually active once these students reached secondary school, compared to more than 6,000 students who did not receive sexuality education.

Despite such evidence and many others that justify or prove and provide some insight on the practicality of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, sex education is still a major concern for a number of reasons to a number of parents, especially those with strong religious beliefs.

I believe three things come in conflict here: the responsibility of an education system to provide information to students, the student’s right to access information (in this context, sex education information) and a parent’s or guardian’s cultural, moral and religious views over their child’s life. Because these three will always come into conflict, it’s easy for any evidence on the positive impact of Comprehensive Sexuality Education to be washed away in the debate.

In Bangladesh and India, opposition to the Comprehensive Sexuality Education initiative was based on the fear that young people, especially young women, equipped with this knowledge, would be lured into sexual activity before marriage.

In these countries and many others, women are signified as bearers of their families, communities, and their nations. Women are taken as representatives of the identity group or the nation at large. There’s always insecurity and suspicion that women, given free rein, may choose to express their sexuality or procreate with the “wrong” men.

There are three tiers in any education system: The school, the community and the home. What makes the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education a challenge is how each of these groups feels about Comprehensive Sexuality Education. To have a smooth education system, to have a smoothly paved way for implementing policies, you need a consensus within these three tiers.

Religious groups in South Africa are concerned that Comprehensive Sexuality Education will sexualise children by teaching them how to have sex, rather than the consequences and responsibilities of sex. Some parents agree with this notion, while others are in favour of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

Some of these parents who are opposing the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education are teachers – do we really expect them to do a really good job at facilitating Comprehensive Sexuality Education? Despite the fact that Minister Angie Motshekga explained in a written response that parents have a right to opt-out of the current curriculum, provided that they can produce an alternative curriculum that meets the required CAPS criteria for competence.

It’s not yet clear what an “alternative curriculum that meets the required CAPS criteria for competence” means.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education in South Africa comes just at the wrong time, when many of the country’s young people are unemployed with degrees and other qualifications.

How can the department of basic education expect parents to trust them with their children when it comes to sexual issues when they feel they can’t trust them to prepare their children for the future, the future of their careers and other related matters that would positively influence their lives?

I personally believe that the question about whether or not Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a good decision is on its own very wrong, especially looking at where we are economically.

Do we think parents are really worried about sex right now? They might be worried about infections but what’s more of a concern is whether their children will be able to take care of their children, on their own, financially.

Teenage pregnancy is a pressing issue, I agree; however, we know for a fact that the two girls (11 and 12 years) from Daveyton High School didn’t go knocking on the principal’s door and ask for sex. We know that this can probably be tied to money.

Now, how far can Comprehensive Sexuality Education go? Why are we even educating one party (the learner)? Where are we with teachers? Or maybe we don’t need to educate them, and they are just being ignorant since they are old enough to know the difference between good and evil.

One Facebook user once posted the following: “People want jobs, jobs are scarce and money is everywhere. Pity we were never taught about money.”

Financial freedom is the bigger and pressing issue, why don’t we start there and leave sex to parents.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education is not just about the content, it’s about the culture that lies between the school, the community and the home. If the culture is not in sync, there’ll always be difficulties and there’ll always be a different message echoed from all parties.

If I was a parent of a child in Grade 4 I wouldn’t be impressed that you’re telling my child about sex rather than teaching them how they can start a business, a hedge fund or how they can become a venture capitalist.

Teach them EBITDA, not sex. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted