Department's new school sex education plan aims to reduce HIV infections and pregnancy

By Anelisa Kubheka Time of article published Sep 16, 2019

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Durban - THE Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) have called on the Department of Basic Education to also keep in mind schoolboys regarding interventions for new HIV infections and for teen pregnancy.

The department is testing scripted lesson plans in five provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, with the intention of strengthening the life skills curriculum, while seeking to make pupils more conscious of issues of gender-based violence.

To ensure standardised and quality delivery of sex education, the department scripted the lessons plans.

The department’s intervention has seen a decrease in pupil pregnancy as well as a decrease in new HIV infections in girls between 15 and 24 years.

TAC national deputy chairperson, Patrick Mdletshe, applauded the department’s efforts.

However, he said rural schools needed to be included.

“This particular intervention speaks of the girl child. She does not impregnate herself.

“Even though these stats have not come to light yet we are also seeing young boys getting infected,” said Mdletshe.

Cebolenkosi Khumalo, KZN convener of Cosas, said what he saw in schools did not represent a decrease in teen pregnancy.

“I don’t believe these figures are true. Instead, it looks like pregnancies are on the increase. We see schoolgirls, especially during exams, go to their taxi driver boyfriends instead of going home after writing a morning paper,” he said.

Khumalo concurred with Mdletshe that schoolboys also needed interventions, and to have discussions around being “a real man”.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department had offered HIV prevention and sex education through the Life Skills and Life Orientation Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), HIV and Aids Life Skills Education Programme and co-curriculum activities since 2000.

He said the high rate of pregnancy from 71 234 in 2009 to 9 9041 in 2013, and HIV infections estimated at 2 000 weekly among girls aged between 15 and 24, indicated that there was no change in the behaviour of pupils.

Mhlanga said as a sectoral response to these increased figures, in 2017 the department had developed the National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for pupils, teachers, school support staff and officials in primary and secondary schools.

He said the department’s HIV prevention and sex education curriculum and co-curriculum programmes had been part of the broader national response in the fight against the HIV epidemic.

“The department is pleased to note a steady decrease in new infections among adolescent girls and young women from 2 000 to 1 300 infections per week, and early and unintended pregnancies from over 99 000 in 2013 to 82 00 in 2017.”

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