ACDP MP Marie Sukers said the campaign, which includes “explicit pictures” posted on social media by departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, showed that the department had run out of sound educational strategies.
“The tweets by Mr Mhlanga beg the question as to whether the department is actually trying to promote reading, or whether it is trying to use women as sex symbols.
“The ACDP’s strong opposition to comprehensive sexual education highlights the demeaning values and beliefs etched into the make-up of this system, which is being promoted by Mr Mhlanga,” said Sukers.
On Tuesday, Mhlanga offered an apology on Twitter saying: “I have noted that one image in particular may have offended sensitive viewers. This, however, was not the intention and we strongly reject any view to that effect.” Sukers noted the apology but said using explicit and nude images in the context of “Read to Lead”, in Women’s Month, in a bid to promote reading cannot be more demeaning to women.
“It is paradoxical for government to celebrate Women’s Month on the one hand, and then for the department to run a campaign which objectifies women on the other hand.
“And then to go ahead and link it to the encouragement to read shows that the department has run out of morally sound and meaningful educational strategies for our children.”
In a series of tweets, Mhlanga noted that “the Read To Lead campaign is aimed at promoting reading among young adults, people of school-going age and society in general.”
He revealed that the same images were used in past years and there had been no discomfort raised at the time. Rather they started a discourse on reading.
“We hope this issue will heighten interest in and sustain a conversation about the importance of reading and its significance in human development,” he said.
The Read to Lead Campaign was officially launched in 2015 for a four-year period. The stated focus was to ensure all learners are able to demonstrate age appropriate levels of reading by 2019.
It was launched in response to national, regional and international studies showing that South African children are not able to read at expected levels, and are unable to execute tasks that demonstrate key skills associated with literacy.
The improvement in learner achievement is an important aim of the campaign, but children should be motivated to make reading a lifestyle choice, the department said, noting that reading is a foundational skill on which all other learning is built.