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Nelson Mandela Bay church leaders speak out on proposed sex education curriculum

Nov 14, 2019
Nelson Mandela Bay church leaders speak out on proposed sex education curriculum

Port Eliabeth - Church leaders in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro have responded to the proposed new sex education curriculum for South African schools.

"The Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leaders Network agrees that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has a responsibility to develop and teach curriculum containing sex education, because of the concerning numbers of teenage pregnancies, HIV/STD infections and sexual violence experienced by learners," the church leaders said in a joint statement.

"Many learners also come from child-headed households or families with limited parental involvement.

"However, unlike mathematics where 1 + 1 will always = 2, teaching on sex is never 'value neutral' and the impressions made on young people at a highly sensitive age of physical and psychological development are likely to have a lifetime impact.

"It is therefore very concerning that, despite promises of 'African solutions for African problems' and of consultation with key stakeholders (particularly parents, School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and teachers), the DBE has comprehensively revised its Life Orientation and Life Skills curricula to teach Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) content and integrated it with UNESCO’s Integrated Technical Guidelines for Sexuality Education (ITGSE)."

The church leaders further said that it is ITGSE that has been widely criticised for its value-neutral ideology, which conflicts with sound values and places an emphasis on the sexual rights of children rather than their sexual health.

"Nevertheless, Scripted Lesson Plans (SLPs) and Educator Guides have been completed and signed off by the Minister for Grades 4 – 12 and the CSE Scale-up report envisions that these lessons will be compulsory for the 12 million learners in the Public School system," the statement read. 

"The DBE told the Basic Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that it wants to introduce this revised CSE curriculum from January 2020. 

"Disappointingly, the Chairperson of the ANC-led Basic Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee has also closed ranks and declared that they will not re-open this matter, despite the fact that they have not seen any of the actual CSE materials."

The Church Leaderships condemned this "irresponsible action, which fails our children".

They said that their primary concerns are summarised as follows:

Lack of consultation:

"Neither parents nor teachers, as the primary stakeholders, have been adequately consulted. Furthermore, other role-players in the field of moral formation were not consulted as well."

Lack of recognition of parents’ legal rights:

The church leaders said that binding international law declares that parents are primarily responsible for, and entitled to, educate their children according to their own values and beliefs.

"These rights are confirmed and reinforced in the South African Department of Education’s White Paper on Education and Training (Chapter 4, item 3)," the statement read.

"The Department must, therefore, respect parents’ rights to decide what is (or is not) appropriate when teaching their children about sex and sexuality."

Lack of transparency:

The leaders said that in order for proper evaluation, parents must be given sight of the CSE materials before these lessons are taught to their children.

Lack of 'opt-out':

"Parents who are unhappy with the CSE materials must be allowed to withdraw their children from CSE classes without sanction and/or be taught an alternative curriculum," the leaders said.

"Their decision in this matter must be respected."

Lack of response to research:

The church leaders said that independent, international research shows that the implementation of the UNESCO CSE curriculum in public schools results in increased harm to children, particularly in the African context. 

"The DBE’s own Midline Report on its CSE 'pilot scheme' identified significant resistance from both parents and teachers, which it described as parental 'prejudices' and 'cultural taboos'. The DBE must therefore fully review the content to ensure that what is included will be in the best interests of children," they said.

"The Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leaders Network therefore encourages parents (and other affected parties) who may be unhappy with the current state of affairs to take URGENTaction to ensure their concerns are both heard and heeded. 

"Parents are advised to contact the SGB of their local school and to insist that the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) in turn raise strong objections when they meet with the DBE in Gauteng on Wednesday, 27th November. 

"Teachers would be well advised to contact their relevant union to raise their concerns."

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