New CSE Curriculum Mired in Controversy

by Daniela Ellerbeck
23 October 2019

By Michael Swain, Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa

New CSE curriculum likely to be rolled out in January 2020

FOR SA has clearly stated that, since it is impossible to teach Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) without imposing a value system, parents must have the right to know in advance what their child/ren will be taught on this subject and (if they so choose) to withdraw them from the class.  This position has now been fully vindicated by the CSE Structured Lesson Plans (SPL’s) and Educator Guides, which have just been released to Parliament by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).  There are strong indications that these materials will be rolled out in public schools throughout South Africa in January 2020. 

The DBE is importing an international curriculum which has proved to be ineffective

The development of this new CSE content by the  DBE has long been mired in controversy and secrecy.  Their revision of the CSE curriculum came starkly to light in May this year when “Dr Eve”, a sex therapist whose liberal views on sex and human sexuality are well-known, revealed that she was a member of the team reviewing the curriculum. Under pressure, the Department was quick to distance themselves from her. However, they did admit that there had been no meaningful consultation with the most critical stakeholders in the process (parents and teachers) and gave assurances that the earliest that this curriculum would be rolled out in public schools would be in 2021.

This now appears not to be the truth. Instead, thanks to financial grants from inter alia USAID, the DBE has forged ahead and has now completed (with Ministerial sign-off) all the Structured Lesson Plans (SLPs) and Educator Guides for grades 4 to 12 and has piloted these lessons in five provinces.  Despite being under no legal obligation to do so, the DBE has completely overhauled the old curriculum (which according to its own research, was successfully reducing instances of HIV infections and learner pregnancy).  However, instead of keeping to its promise to use “African solutions for African problems”, the DBE has now incorporated and integrated  UNESCO’s highly controversial International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE). 

In so doing, the DBE have ignored the fact that scientific studies have revealed that the ITGSE curriculum and approach is ineffective in achieving its apparent objectives.  On the contrary, a 2018 study showed than more than one (1) in four (4) schools (26%) showed negative effects on learners’ sexual health, with decreases in condom use and increases in rape, sexual debuts, HIV/STIs, number of sexual partners, recent sex, or “paid for sex”.  A 2019 study shows that the rate of harm appears even higher for school-based CSE in Africa than in other contexts.  It is also important to note that one of the contributors to the ITGSE was Planned Parenthood, the notorious abortion provider who are involved in a massive scandal for selling aborted baby parts and organs.

No meaningful consultation has yet taken place with parents

FOR SA has now had the opportunity (thanks to the ACDP) to review the SLPs and Educator Guides for the new CSE curriculum.  We did not feel comfortable to include actual examples of these materials in this article as they are not suitable for sensitive viewers, but you can see/download them by clicking here.

As a parent, you must now ask yourself if you are happy for your (Grade 4) child/ren to be part of a group discussion to identify their (and others’) “private parts”?  Or to be taught about the risks of an intrusive lesbian relationship, homosexual molestation and sexual assault (Grade 5)?  Or to be asked for their views on sexting topless photos on WhatsApp (Grade 6)? Or to have their teacher describe what happens during oral, vaginal and anal sex (Grade 8)? Or the fact that Educators are compelled to teach your child/ren that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice (Grade 11)? Or that, of the sexual “heroes and role models” that your child is encouraged to respect and imitate, four of five are HIV positive and three of five identify as LGBTQ (Grade 12)?

If the answer to any of the above is “no” – and there are many more examples than could have been used – then you have a very limited time to make your voice heard!  Your objection will reinforce what the Department’s own research has already shown – that “traditional values” are “key barriers” to the implementation of CSE throughout South Africa.  However, instead of listening to parents’ legitimate concerns, the Department’s response to date has been to call these “parental prejudices” and “cultural taboos” which must be tackled by “sensitising” parents and educators to simply accept the curriculum’s content and values.  The DBE’s current view is that parents will be able to look at the books their children are given at school and will then be able to comment.  This is clearly not meaningful consultation.

The DBE’s own research shows strong resistance to the new CSE curriculum

When briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Basic Education (PPC) on September 17th, 2019, the DBE failed to mention the findings of the research they conducted on the content’s effectiveness in the five pilot provinces.  Following the piloting of the new CSE curriculum in schools in five provinces, this Midline Report study on the new SLPs has shown conclusively that there is little to no support from members of the school’s senior management teams, with many teachers feeling very uncomfortable delivering the content and many parents stating that the type of graphic and ideologically-laden content used in the new curriculum is completely inappropriate.  Instead, the DBE focused on their claim that CSE will help reduce gender violence and incidents of teenage pregnancy, HIV and STIs.  Significantly, they also failed to provide Parliament with examples of the SLPs and Educator guides, instead adopting a “just trust us” approach.

FOR SA recognises why the State feels a need to educate children about sex and its related responsibilities and hazards.  However, unlike a subject like Mathematics (where one plus one will always equal two, regardless of context), teaching on sex and sexuality is inevitably value-laden.  Of all subjects taught in schools, CSE is the most likely to make a lasting impact on children since they are at a highly impressionable age and often unable to process the information that they are given. FOR SA has, therefore, consistently insisted that the rights of parents to raise their children according to their own values and beliefs must be respected.  As a result, parents must:

(a) be consulted on and shown the content of the CSE to which their children will be exposed; and

(b) if it is in conflict with the values they hold, to have the right to pull their child/ren from the class.

Parents’ legitimate concerns are now being inflamed by the undue haste with which the Department is pushing the rollout of CSE and their inexplicable lack of proper consultation during the development process.

Make your voice heard!

FOR SA therefore urges parents, teachers and other concerned parties to make sure that your voices are heard and that alternative solutions are properly considered.  We recommend that you consider all of the following options:

  1. Write to Parliament
    In order to make MPs aware and encourage them to fulfil their duty as representatives of the many South Africans who are deeply concerned about the issue, FOR SA asks you to consider completing and sending the attached template letter to the elected representatives (MPs) on the relevant Portfolio Committee. The letter sets out the main concerns regarding CSE and requests Parliament to exercise its power to make sure government BY the people does not get steam-rolled by the executive.
  2. Mass Protest Action
    A time may well soon come where mass protest action of parents (across faiths and cultures), becomes critically necessary to prevent this agenda from being pushed into our schools.  Please continue to follow our website ( or Facebook page (“Freedom of Religion SA”) for details.
  3. Sign the “Stop CSE” petition sponsored by the Family Policy Institute.

Michael was raised in England, graduating from the University of Bristol with an honours degree in Law before immigrating to South Africa in 1983. He has been a successful businessman as well as having spent over 30 years in ministry in South Africa, Europe and the USA. He serves as the Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).

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