Johannesburg - Some teachers are refusing to teach sex education classes because they say it involves educating children as young as 10 about such sexually explicit topics as masturbation and male and female private parts.
Scores of teachers have insisted that they don’t feel comfortable teaching this apparently highly sexual content, which forms part of the Department of Education’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum prescribed for pupils between Grade 4 and matric.
Many told The Saturday Star they will refuse to teach these classes even as the department insists they have no choice in the matter.
A high school English teacher who teaches life orientation said she is not qualified to teach CSE and is not comfortable doing so with her teenage high school pupils, let alone adolescents in primary school.
“As a parent of a 17-year-old, I feel uncomfortable knowing that he knows in detail what mummy and daddy do behind closed doors. How much more embarrassing will this be for others who have smaller kids?” said the teacher, who wished to remain anonymous.
She added these lessons would encourage youngsters to engage in unsafe sexual activity before they are mentally mature enough to know the implications.
“I’ve heard some girls complain that the males tell them not to play shy and act as if they’ve never heard of sex because it’s taught at school and they know how to perform it,” she added.
Another high school teacher, who also asked not to be named, said she would simply refuse to teach the lessons, even if she was instructed to do so by the department.
“If I were asked, I would refuse because I feel it is an intimate topic that one cannot discuss generally.”
These sentiments where echoed by another teacher and mother, who also plans on refusing to teach the sex classes.
“I will definitely not allow my child to attend a school were such filth is taught. I will not teach at a school that will force teachers to teach it.
“I foresee many parents taking their kids out of schools or not paying fees and more teachers leaving education.”
A male teacher believes these sexually oriented lessons will lead to increased paedophilia and a higher teenage pregnancy as he foresees these classes as encouraging sexual activity.
“This education is making me feel I must make a plan and leave this country for the sake of my children,” he said.
An irate DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that the outcry around sex education is based on misinformation and insisted that the department has the interests of its pupils at heart.
“The uproar is based on lies, untruths, misinterpretation, misrepresentation, fake news, denial and ignorance,” he told The Saturday Star.
The department recently published information pertaining to the CSE curriculum for viewing on its website.
It said the purpose of this was to counter what the department considered misinformation stemming from leaked lesson plans which included classes on what “private parts” are and the "biological names for them” for Grade 4 learners, masturbation for Grade 7s and “a seven-step, illustrated depiction of how a female condom should be placed” for Grade 9s.
Mhlanga said sex education in South African schools was not new and was introduced as part of curriculums in 2000. The information on its website echoed his sentiments saying that to “ensure learners do not get confusing and misleading messages on sex, sexuality, gender and relationships”.
It adds CSE is not sex education, does not teach learners how to have sex, will not sexualise children.
While the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union media officer Nomusa Cembi said it was engaging with the DBE on the matter and provide guidance to its members, the department said they expect teachers to do their jobs.
“Teachers cannot choose which work to do. The world of work doesn’t operate in that manner,” Mhlanga said. “If you are a life orientation teacher who is trained, you will be in a position to handle the difficult issues.”
Despite reassurances, many parents are not convinced that the department is equipped to educate youngsters on matters surrounding sex. Some have taken to social media. The Facebook, #LeaveOurKidsAlone has a following of 60 000 since it began two weeks ago.
Sex expert Sharon Gordon believes teaching children about sex will benefit them.
“Children need to have a real conversation about sex and related topics from teachers, who also need to be trained in order to properly educate them on these matters.”
Gordon believes many parents are not equipped with knowledge to pass on to the next generation and this is forcing youngsters to turn to the internet or the classmates.