Condoms now accessible at schools
Condoms will soon be accessed by teenagers at their schools.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gazetted the department's finalised National policy on HIV, STIs and TB for learners, educators, school support staff and officials in all primary and secondary schools in the basic education sector last Friday.
The policy paved way for private distribution of condoms to pupils over 12, the age in which the government stipulates children have a right to access sexual and reproductive health services without parents' consent.
"Discreet access to male and female condoms (barrier protection) and information on their use will be available to all learners, dependent only on age of consent, inquiry or need - by suitable persons in a supportive and friendly manner.
"Management of this distribution process and mechanisms for the storage and distribution of condoms will be informed by the local context of each institution," said the published policy.
The condoms will also be available to teachers, school support staff and officials.
She said an estimated 2000 adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 years are infected with HIV each week.
"We know the protective role that education could play in reducing young people's vulnerability to HIV, TB, unintended early pregnancy and harmful behaviour in general, and call on society to support every child to stay in school until completion."
The policy also ushered in an era of compulsory comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum. "Appropriate" learning material and teacher training will be provided.
This subject would cover sexuality, reproductive health, gender-based violence, and a focus on HIV, STIs, TB and unintended pregnancy.
It would be offered in a "nonjudgemental" fashion.
The National Association of School Governing Bodies supported a discreet distribution of condoms only to pupils who need them, its general secretary Matakanye Matakanye told Sowetan.
Such a process would be steered by health workers who would visit schools every week and leave condoms in schools based on interaction with the life orientation teacher, Matakanye said.
Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, said schools should not consider the policy as binding law.
"The final decision will always be of the school governing body, preferably after consultation."