Department’s Press Release Fails to Address Sex-Ed Concerns

by Daniela Ellerbeck
31 October 2019


30 October 2019

For immediate distribution


The recent press release from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) expresses concern about “misleading information” and “unnecessary confusion and panic among South Africans” following information released on their revised Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum by Freedom of Religion South Africa(FOR SA).  However, instead of acknowledging their failure to consult with key stakeholders and the fact that they have ignored numerous requests from several organisations for transparency and to make information on the revised CSE curriculum available, the DBE is attempting to make FOR SA and others a scapegoat for their own negligence.  In so doing, they are also trying to deflect attention away from the graphic visual and descriptive content of the curriculum, actual examples of which were made openly available in our previous press release and can be viewed on the FOR SA website or by clicking here.  

Regardless, FOR SA’s simply-stated concerns remain:

  • That neither parents nor teachers, as the primary stakeholders, were adequately consulted;
  • That parents must be given sight of the CSE materials before these lessons are taught;
  • That parents, as those primarily responsible and entitled to educate their children according to their own values and beliefs, have the right to decide what is (or is not) appropriate when teaching their children about sex and sexuality; and
  • That parents’ decision in this matter must be respected by allowing them to withdraw their children from CSE classes without sanction.

Although the DBE reiterates that “there is no new content that has been added to the Life Orientation (LO) subject in schools”, this is clearly not correct. In terms of the DBE’s own press release, the Life Skills / Life Orientation curricula were “reviewed” to bring it in line with the International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education (ITGSE). This is clearly stated in the introduction to their own materials.

Of equal concern is the DBE’s failure to respond, in their press release, to the key concerns raised in FOR SA’s press release.  These include the fact that the Minister of Basic Education has already signed off on the Scripted Lesson Plans (SLPs) and Educator guides for Grades 4 – 12; that the Midline Report findings on the pilot scheme have identified significant resistance from both parents and teachers; that the DBE’s project has been funded by, amongst others, USAID and incorporates UNESCO’s highly controversial ITGSE, contributed to by the notorious abortion agency Planned Parenthood.

The DBE claims that a 2016 review of the ITGSE – which has been integrated into the revised CSE curriculum – provides evidence that it effectively addresses the negative consequences which can result from a lack of education and information on sex and sexuality.  However, they omitted to state that subsequent studies conducted by, for example, The Institute for Research and Evaluation in  2018 and 2019 (which use UNESCO’s own data) clearly show that the implementation of CSE globally carries a clear risk of harm to children. These studies concluded that “school-based CSE in non-US settings does not support UNESCO’s claim that [its CSE programme] is effective.  In fact, UNESCO’s own evidence indicates that CSE in school settings has shown little success and may be doing more harm than good”. Importantly, in light of these recent studies, and the fact that the South African Constitution specifically states that the best interests of the child are of paramount importance (section 28(2)), and that all organs of state are bound to protect, promote and fulfil this requirement (sections 8(1) and 7(2)), these factors alone should have given the DBE reason to pause and reconsider.

Furthermore, these more recent studies reveal exactly the opposite results to those promised by the DBE and show evidence of earlier sexual debuts, more sexual partners, less condom use, worse rates of STI and HIV infections and even increases in sexual violence.  They refute the DBE’s claim, both before the Basic Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and in their press statement, that the CSE curriculum does not sexualise children.  However, just one example in the curriculum (and there are many) involves the teacher giving the  Grade 8 class a description of vaginal, anal and oral sex.  Given that children are naturally inquisitive, how does this not run the risk of prematurely sexualising them?

FOR SA has never disputed that there are serious and current societal challenges of teenage pregnancy, HIV infections, sexual violence and the like.  We have publicly stated that the DBE has a solid case for including education on sex and sexuality in the Life Skills / Orientation module.  FOR SA has also met with the DBE on prior occasions to discuss this matter with them.  The DBE admitted that the primary stakeholders (parents and teachers) had not been properly consulted during the curriculum development process.  They also stated that they would develop “African solutions for African problems”.  The fact that both the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) and the South African teachers’ union (SAOU) are vehemently protesting about the lack of consultation and even calling for boycotts, is clear evidence that this has not happened to a sufficient degree.

FOR SA’s primary concern is that parents – as those responsible for the education of their child/ren and entitled to raise them according to their own values and beliefs – are being ignored.  CSE is not a value-neutral subject like mathematics, where 1 + 1 will always equal 2, regardless of the context.  In fact, it is impossible to teach this subject without integrating a moral viewpoint.  While many parents may be happy for their children to learn whatever the State may choose to teach on sex and sexuality, others may view this as completely contrary to the values they hold and which they wish to impart to their own children.  There are alternative, well-respected curricula available which will achieve the same (if not better) educational and societal results.  Instead, the DBE seems disrespectful of the established rights and legitimate concerns of parents when it states that “it is our principle to orientate parents when we introduce new lesson plans”. Orientation is not consultation.


For more information, contact:
Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Email: [email protected]  
Cell: 072 270 1217

Share This