Condoms at schools: union to press on

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The National Teachers Union (Natu) is to press ahead with its controversial condom distribution programme at schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga from next month, despite the Education Department's disapproval.

The national Education Department is opposed to the promotion of "sex at schools" and prefers the "abstinence message" instead. This sentiment also has the backing of the provincial departments of education.

Education Department spokesman Lunga Nqengelele said the department remained opposed to the promotion of sex at schools but favoured the abstinence campaign.

"The department cannot have a blanket approach to the matter," Nqengelele said. "It is up to each province to decide if they are for or against the distribution of condoms at schools."

Education authorities in Mpumalanga told Sowetan they agreed with the opposition to the proposal.

Provincial spokesman Jasper Zwane said: "We believe there are other efforts that can be initiated at schools to stem the spread of HIV-Aids rather than the distribution of condoms."

The KwaZulu-Natal education department was unavailable for comment.

But Natu is adamant that there is very little the departments can do since the final decision to distribute the condoms rests with the parents and school governing bodies.

Natu spokesman Eliam Biyela said: "The Education Department has no standing in the matter. The parents have the final say."

Biyela said the project was part of their programme to curb the alarming rate of teenage pregnancies and the HIV-Aids pandemic at schools. He said the Health Department would provide the condoms free of charge.

Biyela said the pilot project would start next month at 20 schools in the two provinces.

Last week union officials visited schools to finalise the process with the relevant school governing bodies and parents.

"Before the end of this week we will finalise negotiations and by the end of this month we would have an idea of how many schools would like to receive the condoms," Biyela said.

He would not reveal the names of the schools, saying these would only be made public once all negotiations had been finalised.

"The long-term plan is to increase the roll-out of condoms to all provinces," he said. "We will not be buying these condoms. We have spoken to the Department of Health and they have agreed to supply us with condoms.

"Natu believes that use of condoms saves the lives of teachers. Why is it morally acceptable to refuse the same to a sexually active pupil?"