Sex education: Department of Basic Education must play open cards

Dr. Wynand Boshoff

The Department of Basic Education's latest statement on its revised comprehensive sex education is an incoherent document that leaves one with more questions than answers.

It endeavours to discredit opposition against the programme as being malicious and unsubstantiated, but it provides no clarity. The statement actually warrants a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis to show how misleading it is.

When the media reported in May 2019 on the proposed revisions of sex education, the Department undertook that any changes will be preceded by proper consultation. However, there has been no consultation. The learning materials were only made available to the Portfolio Committee after a parliamentary question was asked about it.

The statement denies the inclusion of new content and yet another paragraph states that prescribed lesson plans, an online teacher training course and textbooks that belong to the government were developed. "Continuing Professional Development Courses for Teachers" are also being considered.

The statement refers to outdated lesson plans that were used during the pilot phase, but makes no further mention of it. In reality, a comprehensive report was published in February 2019 by international academics who cooperated with the Department. The report refers to "intervention" and "control" schools that were used to measure the impact of the relevant lesson plans.

Significant differences between the groups of schools were noted and include, among other things, that children in "intervention schools" showed a greater interest in sex education; that parents felt comfortable with the idea of sex education, but did not know what the content entails; and that teachers in the "control schools" found their guides to be useful while the teachers in the "intervention schools" did not.

A question that parents and other interested parties should ask themselves is why the Department went to so much trouble with the evaluation if the revisions have no new content. Furthermore, the Department should lay all fears to rest by publishing the proposed learning material on the internet so that parents and teachers can get access to it and provide informed feedback.

In the meantime, the education trade union NAPTOSA issued a statement saying that it has no knowledge of the revised material and that the matter is cloaked in secrecy.

In order to get more clarity on the matter, the FF Plus addressed a written question to the Minister asking whether parents and teachers were consulted about this revision of the learning material, what the timeframe for implementation is and whether she can guarantee that it will not be implemented at schools at the beginning of 2020. A response is eagerly awaited.

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