Realistic sex education is good for kids - and society

12 May 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

The department of basic education needs to be lauded for developing new life orientation textbooks for pupils in grades 4 to 12. The overhaul of these books is a step in the right direction as an evaluation of 39 textbooks being used in nine subjects, including life orientation, found that LGBTIQ+ people were mentioned only twice.
However, there is bound to be fierce opposition to young children being taught topics such as sexual consent and masturbation. The department roped in celebrity sex therapist Dr Marlene Wasserman (Dr Eve) as a consultant and contributor to the chapters on sexuality.
Her frank and no-holds-barred views on sexuality are guaranteed to breathe new life into sex education lessons. These lessons have been designed in line with learning objectives contained in the revised "International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education" that was published by Unesco last year. According to the Unesco document, pupils aged 9 to 12 years should be able to explain that many boys and girls begin to masturbate during puberty.
While the new textbooks will feature topics such as masturbation, a serious concern is whether teachers will readily teach them, and also whether conservative parents will welcome such classroom discussions. Many organisations involved in education insist that teachers shy away from controversial subjects such as homosexuality and abortion because it goes against their value systems and cultural beliefs. The organisation Protective Behaviours Southern Africa says some parents believe that teachers are almost encouraging homosexuality or emboldening their children to become transgender when they discuss these topics in class.Rising levels of sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy, as well as the spectre of contracting HIV/Aids through unsafe sex, are precisely why pupils should be exposed to proper sex education lessons.A strong call is made to parents, teachers and religious and civil society organisations to embrace the department's sexuality education programme. If not, we are squandering an opportunity to give our children a well-rounded education.

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