Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Update March
Comprehensive Sexuality Education – Update March 2020:
Where things stand and where to from here?
18 March 2020
By Ryan Smit, CFJ Executive Director and Legal Counsel
A lot has happened since we posted our first “Knowledge Baseline” article in May last year. 9 months on and the outlook is much different, with major stakeholders – most notably parents – and role players – notably schools and teachers – having caught on and being more aware and informed of the threats posed by state-sponsored Comprehensive Sexuality Education learning material (CSE).
In this article, we focus on: –
- Problematic and concerning content in the CSE learning material,
- The rights and responsibilities of the various role players in the school education sector,
- The implications of how the South African schooling system has been set up in our constitutional dispensation, and
- What stakeholders and role players can do to ensure the best interests of children.
We address the above points by answering the following 5 (five) questions:
- What is the CSE issue about in South Africa?
- Is there cause for concern?
- Is CSE effective at addressing social ills associated with sexual behaviour that is not in the best interest of the individual child, his/her family, community and society at large?
- Are the SLPs compulsory or mandatory learning material for teachers and learners?
- What can we do?
Our answers to these questions are also available in the form of short video clips available here.
1. What is CSE?
Government / the Department of Basic Education (DBE), with the assistance of international partners, has developed new learning materials to teach sexuality education in South African schools, as well as to out-of-school youth, based on UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE). The new learning materials are in the form of Scripted Lesson Plans (SLPs), consisting of an Educator Guide and a Learner Workbook, for each school grade from Grade 4 to 12. The DBE is currently developing SLPs for Grade R to 3, and is also drafting a textbook for schools to use as a resource for CSE.
To get the full background, read our Knowledge Baseline article HERE.
2. Is there cause for concern?
Looking at the content of the SLPs, there is most definitely serious cause for concern.
The SLPs are available to the public since the DBE published it on their website at the end of 2019: https://www.education.gov.za/Home/ComprehensiveSexualityEducation.aspx
2.1. The SLPs not only contain factual content, but also ideological content that pushes a particular view and understanding of sex and sexuality, focusing on sexual autonomy and progressive concepts and constructs such as “sexual identity”, “sexual rights”, “sexual and reproductive health services” (which includes abortion), and which is detrimental to the best interests of the child. There is a clear bias against healthy development and healthy outcomes, in favour of the promotion of radical progressive ideals, where these objectives are in conflict.
The basis of the SLPs – the 6-point core message – denies the true nature, value and purpose of sex and warps it by diminishing it to a mere casual or recreational activity.
2.2. The SLP content also drives in a wedge between parents and children – weakening the parent-child family relationship – and dismisses family and community values as “prejudices”, i.e. it is to be doubted or distrusted.
2.3. Some of the factual content in the SLPs will not be age-appropriate for every child in the classroom within a given age group/grade and some of it is presented in a moral/values vacuum or in a moral/values context that many South African parents will disagree with completely.
2.4. The ideological basis of the SLPs is Radical Feminist Gender Ideology, which is coupled with so-called gender fluidity/spectrum/neutrality theories.
The SLPs seem to deny a sexual health disorder (specifically gender confusion/dysphoria). There is a real concern that the SLP’s are imposing both a thinking paradigm and concomitant treatment options in relation to ‘permanent gender dysphoria’ onto the adolescent and prepubescent sector of the population who are far more likely to be experiencing ‘transient (temporary) gender dysphoria’ as part of their normal sexual development.
It for example spreads the lie that a person who suffers from gender dysphoria can change his/her biological sex to correspond to the opposite sex, i.e. the sex they wrongly identify with because of their dysphoria symptoms.
This is of course impossible because a person’s biological sex is determined by his/her DNA, which is established at conception and cannot be changed. This is why adults who have so-called “sex change” operations have to take life-long hormone pills – to block their body’s normal and healthy hormone production and to force the body through supplements of hormones produced by bodies of the opposite sex, to look more like bodies of the opposite sex.
These theories accordingly are contrary to basic biology and medical science, and looking at its impact on the Western world outside of Africa, we see it spiralling into –
2.4.1. The privacy and safety of girls being sacrificed as gender confused boys are allowed to share girls’ cloakrooms and bathrooms;
2.4.2. Girls’ sports being taken over by boys;
2.4.3. Healthy development – specifically puberty – being disrupted or blocked, meaning that children are actually made ill by way of “medical” interventions and in some instances sterilised;
2.4.4.Through these hormonal and in some instances surgical interventions, people are locked into the sexual health disorder – their gender confusion symptoms are perpetuated by interventions that cause their bodies to look more like the opposite sex, i.e. the sex they identify with because of their gender dysphoria;
2.4.5.Parents who object to such interventions because they want their children to be healthy, their children in some instances are removed from their care or they are denied their rights to participate in medical decisions regarding their children’s health and well-being.”
NB: As an important acknowledgment, we affirm that people experiencing whatever disorder or pathological condition, deserve the utmost care, dignity, respect and support. In our opinion, however, it is not in the best interests of a child to deny a disorder/condition they suffer from and arrest their healthy bodily development by way of “medical” interventions which in some cases results in irreparable harm.
People who want to know more about this, are encouraged to read the American College of Paediatricians’ position statement on gender dysphoria in children (https://acpeds.org/position-statements/gender-dysphoria-in-children and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-dangerous-denial-of-sex-11581638089) on the same topic.
2.5. There are also major concerns in terms of process:
2.5.1. Parents, i.e. the people of South Africa, were not consulted before government embarked on the process of developing the SLPs (starting in 2011) – specifically, the South African public were not consulted whether there is majority agreement with the ideological basis of the learning material.
2.5.2. There are also major concerns about the influence of UNESCO, UN Population Fund, USAID, International Planned Parenthood Federation and others, their interests, what they stand to gain, and at what cost to South Africa and its people, especially our children.
For more information and to get a fuller understanding of the history of the drive to implement CSE in South African schools, find out more at:
3. Is CSE effective at addressing social ills associated with sexual behaviour that is not in the best interest of the individual child, his/her family, community and society at large?
The latest review of the research on the effectiveness of school-based CSE in countries outside the USA, show that the available data, used by UNESCO to promote CSE, does not support UNESCO’s claim that school-based CSE is effective. In fact, UNESCO’s own evidence indicates that CSE in school settings has shown little success and may be doing more harm than good.
This is according to The Institute for Research and Evaluation: Re-Examining the Evidence for Comprehensive Sex Education in Schools 2019: A Global Research Review (December 2019).
Available at: https://www.institute-research.com/CSEReport/Global_CSE_Report_12-17-19.pdf)
And also available in video format at: https://institute-research.com/published-cse.php
- There is almost no evidence that school-based CSE is effective at reducing teen pregnancy or the contracting of STDs.
- There is almost no evidence that school-based CSE increases consistent condom use.
- There is almost no evidence of school-based CSE significantly increasing teen abstinence.
- There is no evidence of school-based CSE producing dual-benefit within the same programme: Sustained increase in abstinence and condom use have not been found to exist together.
- 24% (roughly 1 in 4) of school-based CSE programmes correlated with negative effects on participants’ sexual health, e.g. increase in sexual initiation, STDs, number of partners, recent sex, paid sex, forced intercourse (rape), or a decrease in condom use.
4. Are the SLPs compulsory or mandatory learning material for teachers and learners?
The answer is found in a proper understanding of the role / functions of role players in the Education sector:
1. The State:
THE STATE develops curriculum / learning outcomes and the process of assessment – According to Section 6A, South African Schools Act, 1996
Section 6A, SA Schools Act
Curriculum and assessment
(1) The Minister must, by notice in the Government Gazette, determine-
(a) a national curriculum statement indicating the minimum outcomes or standards; and
(b) a national process and procedures for the assessment of learner achievement.
PARENTS have right to direct and determine the education of their children as highest authority in the school governance structures on individual school level – As affirmed by International Law and White Paper on Education, 1995
“Parents or guardians have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and have the right to be consulted by state authorities with respect to the form that education should take and to take part in its governance. Parents have the inalienable right to choose the form of education which is best for their children, particularly in the early years of schooling, whether provided by the State or not, subject to reasonable safeguards which may be required by law. The parents’ right to choose includes choice of the language, cultural or religious foundation of the child’s education, with due respect to the rights of others and the rights of choice of the growing child.” (Quote from the White Paper on Education, 1995 (White Paper One))
TEACHERS may use programmatic content / learning material of their choice in the classroom – which may be directed by parents at individual school level – in achieving the learning outcomes set out in the CAPS curriculum.
5. What can we do?
5.1. Parents must take up their responsibility to teach their children about sex and sexuality (including good behaviour, healthy choices and understanding consequences) from a young age and in an age-appropriate manner, as part of character development, body safety training and cultivating resilience. And parents must acknowledge that failure to fulfil their obligations, validates, justifies and approves of the DBE stepping in and filling the void left by parents abdicating their rights and responsibilities. With rising teen pregnancies, STDs and other social ills resulting from amoral sexual activity, the state has a reason to be concerned and to act. The State however may not act beyond the legitimate bounds of their assigned authority.
5.2. There are good alternatives to the state’s CSE lesson plans, for teaching Life Skills (including relationship and sexuality education and character development). These programmes / learning materials should be continually improved. We have met with a number of developers of alternative learning programmes and content, including (amongst others): Life at the Crossroads, Smart Life and the TLT programme (Tomorrow’s Leaders in Training).
5.3. Parents should approach their child’s school with proposals to teach one or more of the alternative Life Skills programmes, either as an alternative to the CSE SLPs or as a substitute for it. This process could involve:
5.3.1. Proposing an alternative programme to your child’s Life Orientation (LO) teacher. If there is no response or uptake, then escalate the proposal to the LO Head of Department (HoD), School Management Team (SMT) and finally the School Governing Body (SGB) for decision.
5.3.2. Proposing that the alternative programme becomes the default or preferred learning material for LO in the school. If there is no response or uptake at LO HoD level, then escalate to the SMT and finally the SGB for decision.
5.3.3. Proposing that the school does not make use of the CSE SLPs, but replace it completely with an alternative Life Skills programme and content. If there is no response or uptake from the LO HoD, then escalate to the SMT and finally the SGB for decision.
5.4. Assuming the above can be achieved, LO teachers, education students and parents must be assisted or trained by equipping them to teach one of the alternative Life Skills programmes. The existence of alternative programmes is meaningless if teachers and parents are not geared to teach it and busy teachers will need help to become acquainted with and implement new programmes in the classroom. In our opinion, it is critical that custodians (developers and distributors) of alternative Life Skills programmes link up with training organisations to facilitate training events where education students, LO teachers and parents can be familiarised with the content and trained to teach alternative content programmes.
5.5. At schools which do not reject the CSE SLPs outright or do not allow teaching of alternative content programmes, parents can take children out of classes and teach alternative content at other venues or at home. At a meeting with the DBE last year, the DBE gave the assurance that they have a process in place whereby individual parents can remove their children from a specific class. Such requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Parents who choose to opt-out, will have to be acquainted with the specific CSE SLPs and present a well-founded case for removing their children from one or more of the CSE lessons. A weakness of this option is that it does not address the possibility of secondary or indirect exposure to the offending material, through other children in the same Grade who were exposed to it.
5.6. It is crucial that stakeholders in the private sector and civil society (including members of religious communities) contribute to the roll-out of alternative learning programmes to other schools, communities, suburbs and towns who may not know about other options. We have to ask ourselves whether we care enough about other people outside of our own community (the future leaders and decisionmakers of South Africa) to reach out and connect them with excellent alternative Life Skills programmes that will protect them from State sexuality ideology.
5.7. A final option is for schools to carry on doing what they have been doing in LO up until now. Because the CSE SLPs are not mandatory/compulsory learning material, meaning that there is no obligation on schools to use it or teach the content and it is open to schools to continue as before. A concern about this option is that it doesn’t address the issue that gave the state opportunity to get involved by way of CSE in the first place — parents failing to take up their responsibility to teach their children about sex and sexuality.