File picture: Athit Perawongmetha

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said on Friday the allegations that the rollout of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for secondary school pupils in South Africa was still on hold were false and inaccurate.

This comes after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday said that the district department of education allegedly barred its programme team from offering pupil-testing services on school grounds in King Cetshwayo District in KwaZulu-Natal.

MSF called on the DBE to release clear guidelines on the implementation of school-based sexual and reproductive health services.

But in a statement on Friday, the DBE said it had noted, with concern and disappointment, the statements from Doctors Without Borders. 

The department said it has made a commitment to provide learners with comprehensive sexual education and direct health services at schools and the work was continuing.

It said that the national policy on HIV, sexually transmitted infections and TB for pupils, educators, and others, was now at school advocacy and implementation level, contrary to MSF claims that the programme was still on hold, nearly two years after it was adopted. 

"Since 2012, the department has been offering health services to pupils through the integrated school health services, including education on sexual reproductive health services and referral to health facilities for the service.

"Since the new policy is making provision for SRH services, the department has since updated the package of health services in the ISHP to include HIV, the provision of SRH services in the school package including making condoms available and HIV Counselling and Testing (HTC)."

The department said it was disingenuous for MSF to make allegations that suggest that the department was not fulfilling its commitment on this matter, adding that MSF representatives were fully aware of the work being done as they had been consulted as well.

"The guidelines they mention are actually being finalised for release next week," the department said.

"It is unwise for an organisation such as MSF to resort to skulduggery when a simple request for information would suffice, especially where it is unnecessary because due to their proximity to the department they have an advantage."

African News Agency (ANA)