SUMMARY CONCLUSION OF SUBMISSIONSLearner Pregnancy
While education about healthy sexuality and sexual choices has an important role to play in assisting learners to make choices that are in their best interest, the method, message (content of the education) and by whom the education is done, are critical questions in formulating a policy response to the issue of prevention and management of learner pregnancies.
In our opinion, sex education is the privilege and responsibility of parents/guardians, seeing as sexuality is informed – to a greater extent than most aspects of the human identity – by family values and community/religious beliefs and customs.
It is accepted that in instances where there is consensus or clear precedent that particular family values or cultural beliefs and customs are not in the best interest of the child, there will be justification for disrupting and intervening in the status quo – such measures however, will always be exceptional in nature.
As noted hereinbefore, to our knowledge there are no binding legal mandates, either in terms of the Constitution or international law, that obligate the Department to implement CSE in South Africa.
In these circumstances, having insight into the exact content of CSE curricula becomes all important in order to meaningfully engage with the draft policy. In addition, the Department would need to substantiate the claim/assumption that CSE is desirable, and beneficial and crucial, including providing evidence of how it (CSE) is able to address the issue at hand, i.e. why and how CSE will reduce the incidence of learner pregnancies.
In the absence of the aforementioned information (which to date has not been provided by the Department), it is in any event impossible for anyone to make a determination about whether to support the draft policy or not. In fact, as noted in paragraphs 27 to 29 above, the most recent research indicates that “It is far more likely to see evidence of failure than success in international school-based CSE” and CSE “may be doing more harm than good”.
We specifically request the Department, in light of the numerous controversial and serious concerns surrounding CSE to not adopt a curriculum of CSE as promoted by IPPF and its affiliates as part of the Department’s learner pregnancy prevention and management strategy.
If government / the Department are serious about serving children and acting in their best interest, they will not sidestep parents and guardians, but will work with and through them for the benefit of their children. We accordingly would support, as a constructive alternative/proposal to the provision of CSE to children and providing contraceptives to children at school –
- the provision of training to parents on matters such as the sexual habits of children, the importance of teaching children about healthy sexuality and sexual choices and its consequences; and
- providing parents with condoms/contraceptives to provide to their children, in the context of a discussion in the home about sexuality, sexual choices and consequences.
Notwithstanding the above, if the Department is able to obtain majority support from the public to continue with the development of a national strategy/policy which includes sex education, such policy should be subject to override both on provincial government and on individual school level. CFJ urges the Department to conduct a substantial public participation process with all stakeholders and interested parties to determine whether the public want a national sex education curriculum to be provided through schools and if so, to deliberate on the content of any such possible sex education curriculum.
Any national sex education policy must:
- Recognise the constitutional rights of parents as the primary educators of their children;
- Respect and protect parents’ right to be properly informed in advance of the proposed content (curriculum) of any sex education and to contribute meaningfully to such content that is proposed to be taught/provided to their children;
- Respect and protect parents’ right to decide to rather provide sex education in the home, as opposed to having their children attend sex education classes at school;
- Allow provinces and individual schools to alter or replace the curriculum of sex education to the extent that they disagree with the national curriculum.
As noted above, we do not support the propagating of abortion to children as a means to manage “unintended” pregnancies. Conscientious objectors’ rights not to take part in the provision of information to children regarding abortion services, must also be respected and protected. Our detailed submissions in this regard is as discussed in the main body of our submissions hereinabove.