Children's organisations back comprehensive sex education amid Zwelithini's scating remarks
Johannesburg - Children's rights organisations have backed the controversial comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum which Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said has prospects of damaging the minds of young people in school.
During the official opening of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg this week, the king lambasted the programme and accused the Department of Basic Education of not consulting parents about the sexuality lessons that would be taught to their children. He said this would encourage pupils to be sexually active at a young age, instead of abstaining from sex.
However, children's rights organisations such as Teddy Bear Foundation and the United Nations National Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) supported the CSE programme, which they said would open children’s minds and empower them to make informed decisions about their sexuality.
Unesco’s health and HIV education national programme officer Buyiswa Mpini said it was not true that the lessons would expose pupils to explicit sexual material.
She added that explicit sex and sexuality education are totally different things in terms of the content. Mpini also said children are taught about their own development from early in their childhood, and that at the age of five they are taught about identifying their body parts.
Mpini said scepticism around CSE has been created by the spread of fake news.
“We don’t just go straight to the children about masturbation, we need to find out on which grade we start discussing the topic of masturbation. Sexuality education is teaching children or learners about their development through phases."
She said the programme was now being piloted around the country.
According to the department of basic education, CSE was introduced in 2000 within the subjects of Life Orientation and Life Skills to ensure that pupils do not get confusing and misleading messages on sex, sexuality, gender and relationships.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga last year said that parents had the freedom to opt-out of the new CSE lessons. She also said that disciplinary action would be taken against teachers who refused to teach the curriculum.
The king however told guests and MPLs, in IsiZulu, that he had seen the “disgusting” pictures which would be used to teach CSE.
“There is no Christianity in this, and our culture does not allow this because sex should be practised at the right time by two consenting adults. I know that children are problematic. Teachers are going to teach this, and children are going to say let us practise this,” said the king.
Teddy Bear’s director of clinical services Dr Shaheda Omar said the programme was necessary because young children were already engaging in sex.
“Ten-year-olds are already being impregnated, and there is definitely a need not only to create awareness but mobilise action to ensure that the children are in a position to make informed positive choices.
“This comprehensive sexuality education programme is not teaching children to go out and have sex, but it is creating awareness and making them aware of their rights,” said Omar.
Jackie Branfield, retired founder of the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast-based Operation Bobbi Bear, which specialises in helping sexually abused children, said although she supported sexuality education. She agreed with the king that this programme was not right and that the parents had not been sufficiently consulted.
“I believe that sex education is a good thing, but I do not believe that the explicit sex education that is going around is right. Before you take something like that into the classroom, every parent should see and be allowed to say whether their child is ready for this and if not, say that their child will not attend that particular class,” she said.
The African Transformation Movement (ATM) backed the king and said it would be unwise for the department to continue piloting the project at the schools when there were already huge concerns.
“We equally agree with the king that we can’t continue on the path of moral erosion in our schools and society,” ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula said.