Basic Education department rejects continued misleading reports on life orientation curriculum
The Department of Basic Education has rejected with contempt the continued deliberate misrepresentation of facts regarding some of the content in the Life Orientation subject. Last month the Department clarified the matter and went further to provide details of what is contained in the sexuality section of the curriculum.
We have noted with concern that a certain organization persists in misleading the public by publishing the wrong information resulting in unnecessary confusion and panic among South Africans. We have done our best to help by providing information but they refuse to understand and instead choose to mislead the public.
The Department of Basic Education wishes to reiterate that there is no new content that has been added to the Life Orientation subject in schools. The Comprehensive Sexuality Education has been part of the curriculum since the year 2000.
Research findings indicate high birth rates among adolescents and teenagers; in addition, more than a third of girls and boys (35.4%) experience sexual violence before the age of 17. This has necessitated the great need for the department to provide age appropriate child abuse prevention education that builds resilience, confidence and assertion amongst young people, who often do not know when they are being violated by sexual predators.
The department rejects the notion that Comprehensive Sexuality Education sexualises children. It is mischievous to pull one liners from the scripted lesson plans to create improper and baseless impressions about the curriculum. The lessons focus on teaching about the respect for self, for the body of others; and most importantly, for children to identify inappropriate physical interactions.
The Department conducts tests of the scripted lesson plans in high-burden districts, where there are high teenage pregnancy, birth and HIV rates. The School Governing Body, School Management Team, teachers and parents are orientated on the lessons, as it is our principle to orientate parents when we introduce new lesson plans.
In seeking to find a comprehensive and all-encompassing curriculum that seeks to address real world challenges and issues faced by learners in their day-to-day lives, the Department has through various consultation platforms allowed for the evolution of the content within both the Learner and Teacher Guides. The Department has in fact adapted and allowed for the progression of the lesson plans as through consultation, various key factors were raised that have served to strengthen the Lesson Plans ‘’It is unfortunate and bordering on mischievous that certain organisations persist to misinform the public with outdated lesson plans (Used during the pilot phase) that have been shared across public platforms with the view to not only misinform but discredit the departments comprehensive plan,” says Elijah Mhlanga, Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education.
The core aim of the CSE and its SLPs is to ensure that we help learners build an understanding of concepts, content, values and attitudes related to sexuality, sexual behavior change as well as leading safe and healthy lives.
The department is extremely concerned that there seems to be lower sexual debut and increasing risky sexual behaviour amongst adolescents and HIV prevention knowledge has declined amongst learners. Early sexual debut leads to mental health issues such as depression, vulnerability to violence and poor educational outcomes. The number of adolescent girls who have sexual relationships with older sexual partners continues to increase. By the age of 13, young people are at a stage of puberty and experience emotional, social and physical changes. It is a known fact that most parents do not talk to their children about these changes, which leads to experimentation and risky sexual behaviours.
Teen births remain unacceptably high and impact on learning on teaching. Only one third of girls stay in school during their pregnancy and return following childbirth. This creates poverty traps for families.
Teen births as at April 2017 - March 2018:
- 10-14yrs 2 716
- 15-19 113 700
- Total: 117 010
In a briefing to the Portfolio Committee in September, Basic Education Deputy Minister, Dr Mhaule said the reviews led to the development of scripted lesson plans, the development of state owned LO textbooks, an online teacher training course, the development of the “Teaching for All” initial education teaching programme and considerations of strengthened Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) courses.
“It is only the implementation fidelity that has however necessitated a review of the LO curriculum; an evaluation of the learning material available for Life Orientation and Comprehensive Sexuality Education; a review of teacher training for LO and CSE; and a review of curriculum delivery modalities,” said Dr Mhaule.
The Department’s strategy was informed by comprehensive research. The 2016 review of International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education found that the evidence base for CSE had expanded since 2008. This rigorous scientific review found:
- CSE does not sexualise children;
- Sexuality education does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour or STI/HIV infection rates. On the contrary, CSE delays sexual debut and promotes safe sexual behavior; Increases knowledge of different aspects of sexuality and the risks of early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs;
- Decreases the number of sexual partners;
- Reduces sexual risk taking;
- Increases use of condoms and other forms of contraception.
The Department consulted extensively on CSE, and remains open to further consultation and engagement on this matter.
Actual CSE Content
Lesson 4.2 in the Grade 4 SLP on Respecting the bodies of others and the activity A: The group discussion in the lesson has no reference to learners identifying each other’s private parts rather it asks learners to discuss which parts of their body are private and they would not allow others to touch using a worksheet with a picture of a boy and a girl not using their own bodies as the writer of this article implies.
Grade 5 topics in SLP include:
The reading on 5.6.1 deals with identifying sexual violence at schools and learners talk about situations that are potential risk to them in everyday life and also shows that this violence does not only happen to girls but also to boys. The lesson also equips learners with skills to deal with sexual violence and how to respond and how to protect oneself and where to find help.
This is not true. In Grade 6, Learners are taught about Bullying and Cyber bullying as one the ways of bullying and this lesson uses scenarios to teaches learners that sending nasty or embarrassing messages on the internet or social media threatening to say something that is not true on a public space to hurt other persons is not correct.
Grade 7 Lesson on Understanding Puberty:
This section of the lesson talks about changes adolescents experience during puberty and it refers the learners to talk to parents or doctors as a good way to have information and ask questions that they may have about how these changes affect them and relationships. It further lists questions that learners may need answers to including about kissing, dating and masturbation and sex. The reading on the question provide some of the answers that learners might get including masturbation which is not going to discussed or taught by a teacher as learners are referred to ask these questions from parents.
There is no such lesson or activity for Grade 8 in the approved SLPs with the DBE.
No sexual heroes and role models are mentioned in our curriculum. This is pure conjecture and a blatant lie
Lesson 8.3 for grade 8s deals with making healthy sexual choices and knowing your limits
This is the writer’s perspective as the Grade 9 lessons include the following:
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