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Sex education empowers learners

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Anna Annamalai is a life orientation teacher and school counsellor at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto. She believes that the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) new scripted lessons in sexual educaton are yielding positive results. 

"Since the programme has been in place I feel the children are more open and talk about these issues [sexual-related matters]. Last year a group of girls came to me and explained that there was a boy who was sexually assaulting them in the way that he was touching them. I told the girls to write down what they had experienced and lodge a complaint. The learners were able to do so confidently,” she said.

Annamalai also teaches  her pupils how to enforce saying no when they are abused or harassed.

She added that the lesson plans have helped pupils understand their body changes.

“The scripted lesson plans also guide and empower educators to discuss topics that could otherwise be found to be uncomfortable,” said Annamalai.

Morris Isaacson High School is  one of the schools where the scripted lessons progamme was piloted. The department initially piloted the scripted lesson plans in schools in 10 districts in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.

Sexuality and sexual behaviour change

The aim of scripted lesson plans is to ensure that learners are given an understanding of concepts, values and attitudes related to sexuality and sexual behaviour change.

The lesson plans are  included in the life orientation curriculum and provide age-appropriate material to guide learners in adopting safe and healthy choices.

The DBE plans to use the lessons as a tool to curb early unintended pregnancies and to teach young learners about their bodies and what constitutes gender-based violence.

“In grades four, five and six, we deal with the topic of development of self,” said the DBE’s Director of Health Promotion Muzi Ndlovu.

In grade four, the topic is "respecting my body and the bodies of others.'' Pupils learn about positive self-image, the influence of peers and adults and the importance of not subjecting the body to substance abuse.

In grade five, pupils are taught how outside influences, such as TV, impact how they view themselves. In grade six, they learn about how others might have a different view of their bodies.

“They must learn to accept others as they are,” Ndlovu said.

According to figures from the District Health Information System, in the 2017/18 financial year, 117 051 young women between the ages of 10 and 19 had fallen pregnant. Of these, over 2 500 were between the ages of 10 and 14.

Ndlovu said the department sought to find a way of curbing the high pregnancy rate which leads to a third of girls who fall pregnant permanently dropping out of school.

Juggling school and motherhood 

Teenage mother Elam Nopote (17) said giving birth at 16 meant that she had to drop out of school. Nopote, who is from Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, said as a full-time mother she cannot juggle parenthood, a social life and school.

"When I fell pregnant I did not have enough information about the implications of having unprotected sex."

She said it was good that the lesson plans were being introduced at schools as they will equip young people on sexuality and sexual behaviour.

Did you know?

The department's scripted lesson aims to strengthen the teaching of life orientation.