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Basic Education Department Clarifies Comprehensive Sexuality Education to Portfolio Committee, 17 September 2019

The Department of Basic Education has told Members of Parliament that Comprehensive Sexuality Education has been part of the Life Orientation subject in schools since the year 2000, and that there is no new content that has been added to the curriculum.

The Department was briefing the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education following misleading media reports (front page of Sunday Times, 12 May 2019) that the department was planning to introduce new content to the Life Orientation curriculum.

Basic Education Deputy Minister Dr Reginah Mhaule told members of the portfolio committee that it is only the implementation fidelity that has however necessitated a review of the LO curriculum; an evaluation of the learning material available for Life Orientation and Comprehensive Sexuality Education; a review of teacher training for LO and CSE; and a review of curriculum delivery modalities.

Dr Mhaule said the reviews led to the development of scripted lesson plans, the development of state owned LO textbooks, an online teacher training course, the development of the “Teaching for All” initial education teaching programme and considerations of strengthened Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) courses.

The Department’s strategy was informed by research, which indicated the great need for age appropriate child abuse prevention education that builds resilience, confidence and assertion. Apartheid patterns of family disruption and parental (male) absence, as well as cultural barriers and conservative attitudes, were found to be preventing open conversations about sex and sexuality hence the Department needed to review the content.

The 2016 review of International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education found that the evidence base for CSE had expanded since 2008. This rigorous scientific review found:

  • CSE does not sexualise children;
  • Sexuality education does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour or STI/HIV infection rates. On the contrary, CSE delays sexual debut and promotes safe sexual behavior; Increases knowledge of different aspects of sexuality and the risks of early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs;
  • Decreases the number of sexual partners;
  • Reduces sexual risk taking;
  • Increases use of condoms and other forms of contraception.

Dr Granville Whittle, the Deputy Director-General for Educational Enrichment Services, said Department has had to step up the implementation of the Life Orientation curriculum because the number of adolescent girls who had sexual relationships with older sexual partners continue to increase. HIV prevention knowledge has declined amongst learners, lower sexual debut and increasing risky sexual behaviour amongst adolescents was observed and that early sexual debut leads to mental health issues such as depression, vulnerability to violence and poor educational outcomes

Since 2013, the DBE has been implementing CSE through several co-curricular programmes. These include:

  • Keeping Girls in Schools;
  • Breaking the Silence;
  • Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-Free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS)
  • She Conquers; and
  • Eastern and Southern African Commitment involves 21 countries. The scripted lesson plans will be utilised in all these countries.

Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) exposed to these CSE programmes, adopted health seeking behaviour such as contraception and condom use, and increased HIV testing.

The Department emphasised on the following issues regarding concerns raised in the media:


DBE Response

CSE leads to early sexual initiation

CSE leads to later debut and more responsible sexual behavior

CSE deprives children of their innocence

Evidence shows that children benefit from receiving appropriate information that is scientifically accurate, non-judgmental and age and developmentally appropriate

CSE goes against our culture or religion

CSE stresses the need to engage with the local contexts including engagements with traditional leaders, religious communities and local stakeholders. CSE addresses harmful social norms and negative practices that are not in line with human rights or that increase vulnerability and risk, especially for young women and girls

It is the role of parents to educate children about sexuality

Parents play an important role in educating young people about sexuality. However, CSE complements this role by providing holistic education in a safe and supportive environment

Teaching of masturbation in Grade 4

No masturbation topic in Grade 4 topics.

Topics covered in Grade 4 are as follows:

  • Respect for my body and the body of others
  • Culture and moral lessons
  • HIV and AIDS education

Teaching of sexual pleasure in the curriculum

The focus of the SA curriculum is not on sexual pleasure, but on prevention of HIV, STIs, early and unintended pregnancy, healthy lifestyle choices and avoidance of risky behaviours using a rights based approach

Teaching of UNESCO ITGSE

We have assessed what is appropriate for South Africa, therefore, LO Curriculum is not imported, but based on the SA context. The ITGSE was adjusted to strengthen the content of the CAPS topics. There are no new  topics.

The CSE is using pornographic imagery

Images used in the curriculum are based on protocols and standards set by the DBE that ensures protection of human dignity and rights and does not expose learners to offensive content

Teaching of types of sex in the curriculum

The CSE in the CAPS focuses on the total person, and is teaching age-appropriate content that focuses on relationships, life skills, values, and does not teach learners how to have any form of sex.

CSE will be rolled out without teacher training and teachers are expected to teach new content they are not comfortable with

Since 2000, the Department has been providing in-service teacher training on Life Skills and Life Orientation. Training manuals on the Sexuality Education Scripted Lessons Plans have also been developed to build the capacity of LO educators to deliver the strengthened content


The MPs largely welcomed the presentation and expressed relief at the work of the Department in seeking to educate young people about respect for their bodies and the bodies of others, HIV and Aids, as well as unwanted teenage pregnancies. Most importantly, the Committee welcomes that CSE does not sexualise children, but aims to provide age appropriate information regarding topics that people are reluctant to talk about in their homes.

Patamedi Ronald Moroatshehla urged the department to “continue providing clarity on this emotive issue and continue to encourage parents to talk to their children about these matters, which can be difficult and daunting to talk about,”

Dr Whittle further clarified that the Department had consulted extensively on CSE, and remains open to further consultation and engagement on this matter. He said the department kept a record of comments received from public engagements.

Media Enquiries:   Elijah Mhlanga – 083 580 8275    Head of Communication

                                Hope Mokgathle – 079 817 0427 Ministry Spokesperson

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Written By: buhlebendalo somgede
Date Posted: 4/6/2020
Number of Views: 412

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