Sex tuition is essential for our kids

Image: 123RF/Juan Pablo Gonzalez

Mixed messages from the department of basic education on whether the new sex lessons will be rolled out are confusing.

Our sister newspaper Sunday Times has reported that the department seemed to have abandoned its decision that it would be compulsory to use the newly created graphic material for sex education.

This was after the department's deputy director-general, Granville Whittle, told school governing body federations in January that the workbooks and educator guides were optional.

This was the complete opposite of the threat by minister Angie Motshekga last year that teachers who didn't use the comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) material would be disciplined.

Yes, there was outrage when the public first became aware of the material, with some parents complaining that the study material for grade 4 to grade 12 pupils was too explicit. Some chapters in CSE will teach about condoms and also mention masturbation and oral sex.

But we expected the department to take a stand and defend its curriculum and not bow to pressure from parents.

The department had said the lessons were meant to deal with HIV infection, teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse, so why backtrack on its implementation?

We have high numbers of HIV infections as well as a crisis of gender-based violence in the country. According to UNAids statistics, in 2018 we recorded 7.7-million people infected with HIV.

The latest police figures show 41,583 rapes recorded among the 52,420 reported sexual offences in the 2018/2019 period.

The CSE should be welcomed instead of being rejected. It might be too late for some adults but there is still time to educate children so that they take informed decisions. Not teaching children about sex does not stop them from experimenting with it.

If they have the information, they will know they have to go to a clinic for HIV tests and post-exposure prophylaxis and rape kits after an attack. They will also know about contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies and this will keep them in schools.

Let us keep an open mind and allow our children to learn - that will help them make healthy choices for themselves.