Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly
Fellow South Africans
Hon Chairperson, members of this house on Monday welcomed Siyathanda Kolisi who was leading our 2019 Rugby World Champions team (the Springboks) as they concluded their countrywide tour of the Webb Ellis Cup. This is truly a proud moment in our country and continues to add to our initiatives of social cohesion.
Chairperson, as the basic education sector, we subscribe to the notion of creating safe, caring and supportive school environment for all.
We believe that schools must inherently be safe havens for learning and nurturing young minds.
We are firmly of a view that safe and secure schools offer our learners an opportunity to develop their full potential without any hindrance.
As a matter of fact, South Africa has a high prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated against learners.
Sexual violence at schools not only compromises the learning and teaching environment but carries long-term negative mental and sexual health consequences for the victim.
Recent research shows that more than a third of girls and boys (35.4%) experience sexual violence before the age of 17.
Teen births remain unacceptably high and impacting negatively on learning and teaching.
Only one third of girls stay in school during their pregnancy and return following child birth. This perpetuates the cycle of the poverty trap in affected families.
Let me illustrate, teen births between April 2017 - March 2018 are as follows”
- 10-14yrs 2 716
- 15-19 113 700
In addition, trends show that the figures for early sexual activity are high. Early sexual activity leads to mental health issues such as depression, vulnerability to violence and poor educational outcomes.
Furthermore, SA has a high HIV/Aids infections amongst young girls. Sadly, our data show that HIV prevention knowledge amongst learners has declined in recent years.
At the same time, the number of adolescent girls who have sexual relationships with older male sexual partners continues to increase.
Very worryingly is that there’s an increase in the number of misconduct cases committed by our teachers and recorded by the South African Council for Educators (SACE).
The red flag for me is the numbers of Sexual Misconduct / Rape that seem to be high.
These numbers potentially represents a girl child who may never return to school, and never recover from the trauma of it all.
Even more concerning is that in recent years, the number of boy children reporting cases of sexual misconduct/rape has risen.
But the bugbear of the sector, corporal punishment and assault remains high at over 250 per year, reaching a staggering 295 cases for the 2018/19 financial year.
These scenarios have long jolted us into action.
We have developed and deployed a Protocol for the Management and Reporting of Sexual Abuse and Harassment in Schools.
The Protocol provides a guide to the management and reporting of sexual abuse, ensuring an appropriate and timely response to cases of sexual abuse and harassment.
Over the years, we have developed and distributed a handbook for learners on how to prevent sexual abuse in public schools, titled, ‘Speak Out - Youth Report Sexual Abuse.’
The purpose of the handbook is to equip learners with knowledge and understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence, its implications, ways to protect themselves from perpetrators, and where to report.
The handbook also provides very useful contact details of national and provincial organizations that can assist.
However, as a responsible Basic Education department, we believe that long-term behavioural change happens through teaching. Knowledge as we know mitigates against myths and misleading information.
Through the subject aptly titled, Life Orientation, we deliver to all our learners in public schools, what we call, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).
The Comprehensive Sexuality Education has been part of the curriculum since the year 2000.
The aim of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education and, is to ensure that we help learners to build an understanding of concepts, content, values and attitudes related to sexuality.
We must reiterate that there is no new content that has been added to the Life Orientation subject in schools as reported during the media frenzy in recent times.
The only recent intervention has been the development and deployment of Scripted Lesson Plans to strengthen the delivery of the Life Orientation curriculum especially around sexuality.
The comprehensive sexuality education curriculum also addresses the issue of sexual behaviour change as well as strategies on leading safe and healthy lives. We do not teach our learners about sex.
The Scripted Lesson Plans provide age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. These lessons do not sexualise our children.
The Lesson Plans touch on child abuse prevention measures that builds resilience, confidence and assertion amongst young people, who often do not know when they are being violated by sexual predators.
We reject with contempt it deserves the notion that Comprehensive Sexuality Education sexualises our children.
We are unmoved by critics of comprehensive sexuality education as all our actions are based on solid academic research.
Foreinstance, the 2016 review of International Technical Guidelines on Sexuality Education found that the evidence base for Comprehensive Sexuality Education had expanded since 2008.
This rigorous scientific review found:
- Comprehensive Sexuality Education (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 early sexual activity and promotes safe sexual behaviour;
- 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 condom usage and other forms of contraception methods.
We have also developed a series of state owned Life Orientation (LO) textbooks, and an online teacher training course.
For teachers, we have developed ‘Teaching for All’ as part of initial education teaching programme.
Therefore, we are committed in making sure that all our young people learn under such nurturing school environments - so that - they too can become active citizens of a thriving nation at peace with itself.
But, the reality is that we live in a violent society. Therefore, the sexual violence and other types of violation of learners seen at schools accentuates the dictum that schools are in fact the microcosm of society.
Our schools can’t be islands of peace and tranquillity when gang wars range in the neighbourhood.
We must accept that all types of violence we see in our schools are generated by environmental factors that exists in the particular community.
I implore all Members of this House to work with us in stamping out violence, drugs and sexual abuse in our schools.
Let’s work together to build a South Africa of our dreams. Our learners and children deserve much better.