File photo: The policy allows for pupils to have discreet access to male and female condoms, and information on how to use it. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town – The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) says parents should have the ultimate say on whether their child's school may be allowed to supply pupils with condoms.

A new Department of Basic Education policy, which was approved by cabinet, allows for school pupils as young as 12 to have access to condoms whenever they need it.

The report, the National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB, was drafted in 2015 and the public was allowed to comment.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it was part of a national effort in responding to HIV, STIs and TB and is based on the best available evidence coupled with wide consultation over a number of years.

Sadtu national general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said parents and school governing bodies now needed to be involved in decision-making when it comes to whether schools should implement the strategy.

“Every community is unique and this should be taken into consideration. We encourage parents to get involved.”

It is estimated that currently seven million people are HIV positive with about 270 000 new HIV infections and 450 000 new TB infections annually.

The policy allows for pupils to have discreet access to male and female condoms, and information on how to use it.

“We know the protective role that education can play in reducing young people's vulnerability to HIV, STIs, TB, unintended early pregnancy and harmful behaviour in general, and call on society to support every child of school-going age to stay in school until completion."

"South Africa currently has an estimated 2 000 new HIV infections each week in adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 years. This is a situation we cannot allow to continue.”

Children between the ages of 12 and 16 may consent to sexual acts with one another, according to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.

Motshekga said therefore children above the age of 12 have the right of access to health service, including sexual and reproductive health services, without having to seek parental consent.

The school curriculum will also encompass information on HIV, STIs, pregnancy and TB, including dual protection contraception, HIV testing, STI screening and treatment, and information on medical male circumcision.

Provincial Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver said SGB’s will decide on implementation.

“We are supportive of measures to reduce HIV and STI’s, but as the MEC has raised at (Council of Education Ministers) meetings, the DBE keeps on adopting new policies without allocating the provinces increased funding."

"If the intention is that provincial education departments fund it, then they must be provided with the funds to do so.”

The Governing Body Foundation national chief executive Tim Gordon said it was necessary to offer pupils protection considering that children as young as 12 were engaging in sexual activity.

“No matter one's feelings, you have to take into consideration the high rate at which STIs and HIV is spread."

"We made a number of recommendations when the policy was drafted, and we agree that pupils should have access to condoms if it is handed discreetly and sensitively.”

francesca.villette@inl.co.za

Cape Times