Department warns of 'fake news' about comprehensive sexuality education

Misleading information about comprehensive sexuality education is causing anxiety for parents, says the department of basic education. Stock photo.
Misleading information about comprehensive sexuality education is causing anxiety for parents, says the department of basic education. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/olegdudko

Fake news about the comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) section of the life orientation curriculum was causing confusion and anxiety among parents, the department of basic education said on Sunday.

The department said it had noted “with concern” the impact of fake news and false reporting by some media organisations on the debate around CSE.

Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said in a statement the department wished to distance itself from a “series of images” circulating on social media.

“These images are not part of the books produced by the department. Members of the public have been contacting the department about videos with incorrect information that have also been distributed on social media,” said Mhlanga.

“These social media posts have misled the public and created unnecessary anxiety and anger especially among parents. Social media has been an integral part of the fake news campaign against the department regarding the issue of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education.”

One of the “fake” images shows adults in bed with graphic details. Another piece of false information claimed the department would distribute condoms with stationery in 2020.

The department accused a “lobby group” of creating misleading social media posts and feeding the public “contaminated information”.

“The purpose of CSE is to address sexual abuse, HIV infections, learner pregnancy, and bullying and peer pressure and help learners stay in school until they complete grade 12,” said Mhlanga.

There was no implementation of a “new curriculum” in 2020, said the department. It was a pilot project across five provinces affecting 1,500 schools where “consultation has taken place”.

The Sunday Times reported in September that Freedom of Religion SA — an organisation promoting religious freedom — had written to the department in July demanding it disclose at the beginning of each year the content that would be taught during sex education lessons.

The Family Policy Institute, supported by seven church groups, also called for the scrapping of the CSE programme.

Daniela Ellerbeck, an attorney with Freedom of Religion SA, said such a programme “will sexualise our children by teaching them how to have sex, rather than the consequences and responsibilities of sex”, the Sunday Times reported.

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