State policy on Preventing Learner Pregnancies

UPDATE (August 2018): Meeting with Department of Basic Education regarding policy concerns and CSE

Cause for Justice (CFJ) Executive Director, Ryan Smit, met with officials of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on 13 August to discuss concerns regarding the DBE’s Draft National Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy (the draft Policy).

READ MORE HERE: Update on Learner Pregnancy Policy: Meeting with Department regarding CSE – August 2018

BACKGROUND: What is the cause about?

On 23 February 2018, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) called for written submissions on the draft Department of Basic Education National Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools (draft Policy). The prevention of learner pregnancies, and the management thereof to ensure that girls who fall pregnant continue to receive a quality education with as little disruption as reasonably possible, is an important societal goal which requires an empathetic/relational and evidence-based response, both by government and civil society.

INJUSTICE: WHY we must act and WHAT is at stake?

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR)

The draft Policy seeks to implement CSE and the teaching/advocating of SRHR in public schools. Its main goal is:

3 POLICY GOALS
The goal of the Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy is to reduce the incidence of learner pregnancy  through the provision of quality comprehensive sexuality education and access to adolescent and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. It should promote the Constitutional Rights of girls..

There are a multiplicity of problems with the proposed solutions to the problem. To name only a few:

  • Denial of parental rights and responsibilities: In our opinion, sex education is the privilege and responsibility of parents/guardians, seeing as sexuality is informed – as with other aspects of the human identity – by family values and community/religious beliefs and customs. The policy proposal fails to recognise that the rights of parents, as the primary educators and care givers of their children, take precedence over state policy.
  • There are major concerns about international school-based CSE. 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”.
  • The draft policy has gaping holes – relevant documents/information have been omitted (e.g. what the content of CSE curriculum is or will be) and key claims have not been substantiated (e.g. that CSE is crucial to optimal sexual and reproductive health). These holes make it impossible for the public to meaningfully engage with the policy proposal and therefore denies adequate public participation.
  • We also do not support the propagating of abortion (euphemistically referred to as SRHR) to children as a means to manage “unintended” pregnancies.

CFJ’s INVOLVEMENT: What can be done & what will we do?

CFJ delivered written submissions to the DBE on 3 June 2018, including a list of questions and requests in relation to holes in the policy proposal.

In our submissions: (Read a Summary Conclusion of our submissions HERE.)

  • 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 International Planned Parenthood Federation and its affiliates.
  • We also urge 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.
  • We argue that 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 levels.

STATUS UPDATE: Where do things stand and what will happen next?

The current deadline for written submissions is 30 July 2018. Only after the Department has responded to our questions and requests, will we be able to meaningfully engage with the draft Policy. We are continuously following up with the Department to provide us with a response. To the extent that meaningful engagement is not facilitated and enabled, adequate public consultation and participation will be denied, resulting in the Policy being unlawful.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: How can you make a difference?

You can support this cause by:

“SUBJECT: Submission – Learner Pregnancy, draft National Policy

Dear Sir/Madam,

I support the submissions made by Cause for Justice. Please add my name to the list of interested parties who support the views and comments expressed by Cause for Justice.

Kindly acknowledge receipt of my e-mail submission.

Regards,
[Your Name]
[Your address]
[Your telephone number]”

  • Contributing financially to enable our Legal and Policy team to do the work necessary to help make the much-needed change a reality
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