School sex education: 'A one size fits all approach will not work'

The Department of Basic Education has rolled out a comprehensive sex education programme targeted at Grade 4 to Grade 12 pupils in South African schools.

The programme is aimed at teaching pupils about healthy lifestyles and sexual education.

RELATED: Sex education: 'We haven't been consulted, these ideas have been imposed on us'

There has been much debate around the programme.

Eusebius McKaiser chats to clinical sexologist Dr Eve, South Africa Teacher's Union professional advisor Maryna Besseling and Wits Institute for Diversity Studies researcher Dr Haley McEwen.

Dr Eve says comprehensive sex education is important because studies have shown the changes that have occurred from HIV incidences to unintended pregnancies throughout the years.

The picture is not pretty when one does a comparison from years ago to today, how the numbers just keep increasing. That tells us that whatever kind of intervention used in the current comprehensive sex education programmes is not really being effective.

Dr Eve, Clinical sexologist and couples sex therapist

Besseling says the public has not yet seen the textbooks that the Department of Basic Education plans to distribute.

The department states that this component has been part of the Life Orientation curriculum since 2000. One would expect that if this component has been part of Life Orientation, there would be a drop in teenage pregnancies and there would be a drop in HIV infections, why is it not happening?

Maryna Besseling, Professional advisor - South Africa Teacher's Union

She says there is now an extreme methodology of teaching.

The question is not whether children as young as 14 are having sex, but whether we provide them with the choice of choosing at what age they would like to get certain content.

Maryna Besseling, Professional advisor - South Africa Teacher's Union

She says the community should have a choice.

Comprehensive sexuality education, not so much sex education is relevant. The question that arises is what is the level of exposure that will be provided - and at what age? Is it age-appropriate and is it contextual?

Maryna Besseling, Professional advisor - South Africa Teacher's Union

If the context of the community is not taken into consideration, it will not work. There is diversity in the country and a one size fits all approach is not working.

Maryna Besseling, Professional advisor - South Africa Teacher's Union

McEwen says there are dangerous effects of polarisation and discussions concerning sex education need to be held.

We need to find ways to talk about these issues and connect, however, I don't think there is a middle ground. Its either the one or the other.

Dr Haley McEwen, Researcher - Wits Institute for Diversity Studies

She questions whether society can have a curriculum that is inclusive of gender and sexuality or not.

Listen below to the full conversation:


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