No masturbation lessons for grade 4s

Department of education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Department of education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Masturbation and other sex topics will be explored in grade 7 classrooms across the country, the department of basic education has confirmed.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said yesterday that though there is no mention of masturbation in the Grade 4 life orientation curriculum, it would definitely be mentioned briefly in a Grade 7 textbook.

Mhlanga said the material would explore topics of sex and sexuality in a manner which is "age-appropriate while empowering pupils with the right information".

This after an article which was published by Sowetan's sister publication Sunday Times stated that Grade 4 pupils would be taught about masturbation - sparking controversy.

Mhlanga, who confirmed that the curriculum outline was released yesterday by the department of basic education, said Grade 7 pupils would not be taught about masturbation but the learning material would make mention of examples related to it.

He said there would be a part explaining what pornography is, and that sex can happen between heterosexual as well as same-sex couples.

Mhlanga said there is also a part which explains that there is absolutely no chance of contracting sexually transmitted infection (STIs) when masturbating.

"We are not teaching anyone in grades 4, 5, [and] 6 about these things," he said.

Mhlanga said it was important for children to be empowered with the right information instead of getting incorrect information from the streets.

He said the outrage was misplaced, adding that parents should rather be upset about the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy.

General secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Matakanye Matakanye, said they see no reason why masturbation should be mentioned even as an example.

Matakanye said while they agree that children should be exposed to sexual reproductive education, it was unnecessary to mention such topics.

"It must be taken out. We must not teach these children things ... they would want to experiment with when they are young. We are spoiling the minds of these poor, young children," he said.

However, director of the Teddy Bear Foundation, Shaheda Omar, said programmes that educate children about sex and sexuality should be in line with the appropriate age.

Omar said prepubescent and pubescent children, including those in Grade 7, were old enough to receive information about masturbation.

She said the aim was to ensure that children are well-informed, and not to encourage them to have sex at an early age.

"We have to give them sufficient information to make informed choices," Omar said.

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