A recent Amnesty International report painted a grim picture of antenatal care in South Africa and called on the Department of Basic Education to incorporate sex and family planning education in the school curriculum. About 1,400 women die annually in South Africa while giving birth or within 42 days of a pregnancy termination, from causes related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, 36% of these are teenagers. ZIMASA MATIWANE asked whether schools should be doing more to educate young people on these issues.
Tina Nkomo, 17, Grade 12 student, Umngeni
A large majority of school children are having unprotected sex. Some get pregnant and go to backstreet abortions that are unsafe and unhealthy, which endangers their life. My body is ready for sex but mentally and emotionally I am not ready; I am in need of guidance from a person I can trust. I learnt most of what I know about sex on television, my mother tells me to wait for the right time but we do not go into details about sex and family planning. Ultimately I want a teacher who understands students issues, male or female, a parent-like figure who we can be honest and comfortable with to teach about sex and family planning.
Donald Naidoo, 72, teacher, Asherville
I am very pro sex education and family planning education at schools. We have Life Orientation educators but I am just not sure how qualified they are for this task. We need specialists who will be able to deal, in detail with all aspects of sex education. As a father of boys, I did mention sex and family planning but I think they picked it up from friends, which is where the danger lies. I would like to see it incorporated into the schools curriculum because as a parent I might not be qualified enough to get through to my children on such issues but I would be happy with a specialist in the field teaching my kids. I am a life sciences teacher, we teach reproduction but it is not enough.
Claire Spershott, 54, school librarian, Pinetown
Sex and family planning education should be done at schools, because maybe it does not happen in the home. It’s better than having kids find out from other children, then end up with a pregnancy or STI. I must stress that this should be done in the right way and it should be age appropriate. I don’t think you could go into much detail when the child is very young. There should be an emphasis on the whole relationship issue rather than just safe sex and family planning, and it should be done in a holistic way. Maybe have school plays that uncover everything from peer pressure, emotions, relationship dynamics, HIV and AIDS to unwanted pregnancies.
Mondli Zwane, 32, school trainer on social and sexual issues, Ntuzuma
I do not agree that learners should be advised on sex and family planning but would suggest that they be made aware of the consequences of engaging in sex. Some children engage in sex because they do not have much to do after school. Why don’t we rather have recreational facilities in communities to keep children busy. I would not be comfortable with my daughter being taught about sex and family planning at school. It’s too early, maybe she can learn about it in tertiary education. Professionals can play a crucial role in reversing these issues but I feel that it is the responsibility of parents – everything begins at home. At school we were taught about sex and family planning but it was very vague. What my mother taught me is what made a difference in my life.
Susan Hendricks, 22, cashier, Sherwood
We had Life Orientation classes at school but it was not enough. I would have loved a subject dedicated to relationships, sex, family planning. Even though we know about HIV and unwanted pregnancies, when we are young we think we are invincible. There is that idea that “it wont happen to me”, especially among girls. We rely a lot on our boyfriends to make decisions at the beginning of the sexual relationship. I want to see school children empowered, to see girls and boys with enough information to help them make informed choices; teachers should not just scare children by showing them private part pictures of people who have sexually transmitted infections. My own sex and family planning education came from my mother, but some children are not that lucky.
* Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Zimasa Matiwane is a journalism student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). She has written for the community newspaper Satyagraha and DUT journalism’s online newspaper Journalism Iziko.