United Nations given control of sex education in African schools

by Michael Swain
27 September 2022


South Africans will remember that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was taken to task in 2019 when they tried to introduce new content on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into schools without proper consultation with either parents or teachers.  This issue was again pushed by the DBE in 2021 and the goal of a implementing a global standard to teach CSE to all children is once more in the headlines.  

Representatives from the South African government were in New York City from 16 – 19 September 2022 for the United Nations Transforming Education Summit.  A primary purpose of the meeting was the ratification of five-year plan they had already signed up for in July 2022.  This will give full authority to the UN to overhaul sex education in traditionally conservative African countries and to infuse its radical sexual agenda into their public school systems. An international grant from USAID of $25 million (i.e. approximately R440 million Rand) has already been awarded to assist the rollout in South Africa.

This new focus on CSE comes in the form of the so-called Education Plus Initiative, which was launched by five U.N. agencies in 2019. It includes universal access to CSE and the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights.  It is based upon UNESCO’s highly controversial International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE), which has been has been strongly criticised for the very liberal value system it presents and the type of CSE content it recommends. While it can be argued that some level of education on sex should be taught in schools, it is impossible to do so without integrating values and ideological viewpoints into what is taught. 

The constitutional right to religious freedom is also deeply entwined with parental rights because, unless parents are able to transfer their values and their faith to their own children, these can literally be cut off in a single generation.  What a child learns about sex and sexuality at this highly impressionable stage of their development will fundamentally and permanently impact their views on relationships, marriage, family and future generations.  That is why the transfer of knowledge in the area of sex and sexuality has historically been left to the parents of the child, with the schools only providing the biology of sex.

Parents are therefore understandably concerned that CSE teachings on radical gender ideology and other programs are causing their children unnecessary confusion.  They are unhappy that explicit and often age-inappropriate CSE teachings on sex and sexual pleasure are encouraging their children to explore their sexuality when they are far too young to properly understand it.  Although the CSE promoted by the UN purports to address the teenage ills of unwanted pregnancy and the spread of HIV/Aids, it also promotes the “right to abortion” as the solution should a baby be conceived in the process. 

Predictably, the results so far of secular, liberal CSE programmes have been disastrous.  Far from reducing incidences of teenage pregnancy, HIV transmission and STDs, studies by the Institute for Research and Evaluation in 2018 and 2019 (using UNESCO’s own data) clearly show that the implementation of CSE globally carries a clear risk of additional harm to children.  This negative trend was even more pronounced in the African context, where 89% of African school-based CSE programs failed to demonstrate effectiveness.  More than one (1) in four (4) schools (26%) showed negative effects on learners’ sexual health, with an increase in earlier sexual debuts, the number of sexual partners and even rape, resulting in increase in HIV and other STIs.

Nevertheless, South Africa and nine other African nations – Benin, Cameroon, Eswatini, Gabon, Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda – have now committed to the Education Plus initiative.  Instead of developing African solutions for African problems, these governments have embraced a Western ideology that will teach children values about sex and sexuality which are disconnected from (and even in conflict with) the faith and interests of their parents.  As a result of these international agreements, this form of cultural imperialism will potentially now be imposed upon both learners and their parents through the public education system.

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Daniela Ellerbeck

Daniela Ellerbeck is an attorney of the High Court of South Africa. She serves as FOR SA’s Legal Advisor and Parliamentary Liaison. For her full bio, see https://forsa.org.za/about-us/our-team/

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