PRESS RELEASE

14 August 2019

For immediate distribution

Department shocks with “borderline porn” in reading campaign

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is having to put out fires again after it came to light that a recent Twitter campaign to promote reading for children, included provocative images of scantily clad (and apparently) naked women and couples in bed.

Not surprisingly, this campaign has sparked fresh concern amongst parents and teachers about the DBE’s approach to teaching Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to South Africa’s children as part of the “Life Skills” curriculum.  The DBE has recently been mired in controversy, following a “leak” by sex therapist Dr Marlene Wasserman (“Dr Eve”) and an article by Sunday Times entitled “Grade 4s to learn about masturbation in new life orientation curriculum”, which stated that “next year, textbooks for pupils in grades 4 to 12 will reflect a “cutting edge” curriculum that treats masturbation, sexual consent, gender nonconformity and single-parent families as mainstream”.  

Although there is a need to teach about sex and sexual responsibility due to the increase in teenage pregnancy and HIV infection amongst learners, it is equally clear that sex is not a ‘value-neutral’ subject”, says Michael Swain, Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA). “The big problem with CSE is that it not only teaches young people about sex, but it typically sexualizes children prematurely.  Many parents do not want their children to be indoctrinated in this way.”

At the time, the DBE was quick to distance themselves from the statements in the media. During meetings with FOR SA, the DBE claimed that the statements were unfounded and that the content of the curriculum was only in draft form and required further extensive consultation, especially with parents and teachers.  To date, no such consultation has been confirmed and the CSE curriculum for Grades 4 to 12 has now allegedly been signed off by the Minister and is set to be rolled out in schools from January 2020.  

The DBE’s #ReadtoLead campaign supports the impression that the DBE is comfortable using sexuality to further its agenda, ignoring both the rights of parents to educate their own children according to their own values and the harm this can do to young people at a highly impressionable age. It has been launched in “Women’s month”, where the focus is to respect and honour women , not to sexually exploit and demean them.  It also bucks the trend of pending legislation in the form of the Film and Publications Bill, which aims to prevent children from being exposed or experiencing harmful content.

Using images that are borderline pornographic to supposedly encourage children to read is beyond bizarre”,  adds Michael Swain, “It absolutely underscores the need for the DBE to not simply apologise but to actively commit to ensure that parents, in particular, are made aware of whatever content will be contained in the revised ‘Life Skills’ curriculum and to have the right to withdraw their children from classes where this will be taught.”

ENDS.

For more information, contact:

Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Email: Michael.swain@forsa.org.za
Cell: 072 270 1217