Civil society organisations and school governing bodies have urged the government to urgently roll out comprehensive sex education in schools.
Their call came at a panel discussion facilitated by the Soul City Institute for Social Justice on 20 September. It was facilitated by the institute’s advocacy manager, Matokgo Makutoane, with panelists comprising deputy director from the Department of Health, Eva Marumo, a member of the National Association of Schools’ Governing Bodies, Lindeni Motsa and deputy director at the Department of Education, Muzi Ndlovu.
“The National Association of School Governing Bodies has identified the lack of parental involvement especially in black communities, the flashy lifestyles on television and the education system as key problems to youth development,” said Motsa.
Motsa further highlighted that there is a need to advance gender equality in society, with girls and women usually the focal point. “Society needs to bring boys closer when addressing these issues. Boys are very often in relationships with teachers and older women in communities, women that can afford materialistic items seen on television while infecting them with HIV/Aids.
“The education system needs to empower our youth and put them in a position where they can thrive as entrepreneurs and not depend on older men or women.”
According to Eva Marumo, girls are particularly at risk. Marumo said, “Girls aged between 15 and 24 are eight times more likely to get infected with HIV when involved with older men. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of young women infected.
“Communities need to meet the government halfway when it comes to comprehensive sexuality education. Parents need to talk to their children. The Department of Health has launched youth-friendly clinics, they address young people on issues of sexuality, contraceptive methods, pregnancy counselling and has a 24-hour helpline number for support.”
Ndlovu said government was committed to raising awareness for comprehensive sexuality education in line with Unesco policies. “The challenge we face is that there is no one solution for everyone, we are tackling sexuality education and need to be sensitive to culture and religious influences on learner’s lives. The other challenge is the lack of training for teachers to present sexuality lessons.
“We are working on integrating comprehensive sexuality education with the life orientation curriculum, which doesn’t only focus on sexually-related issues but a range of other factors that can help with youth development. The curriculum has been created and piloted in five provinces.”
Edited by Stacey Woensdregt
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