13 May 2019

South Africa: Basic Education Distances Itself From Sunday Times Article

press release

Basic Education Department disappointed and disturbed with Sunday Times article

The Department of Basic Education distances itself from the article published in the Sunday Times yesterday, 12 May.

The article titled "Grade 4s to learn about masturbation in new life orientation curriculum," has started a debate, which continues in radio talk shows and social media platforms.

The article is misleading and in fact, a complete misrepresentation of the work the Department is doing.

The journalist, Prega Govender of Sunday Times, has failed the readers of the newspaper and indeed the South African public by providing false information. In the article he quotes the Director-General Mr Mathanzima Mweli, but what Mr Govender doesn't say is that the conversation he had with the DG was on a separate but related matter.

It's unfortunate that the article he published has now caused mass hysteria unnecessarily and has caused confusion.

Contrary to what the article says, the facts are as follows:

The new Life Orientation textbook for Grade 4 currently being written does not cover masturbation.

The textbook content for sexuality education in this grade is guided by UNESCO'S International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach (2018), as well as by the input and guidance of research and evidence-based highly respected South African institutions.

The Grade 4s will learn, in a most age appropriate and sensitive way, how babies are made and encourages learners to share what celebrations they know of linked to welcoming children into the world, such as Imbeleko.

The lesson set also covers being unique and special, healthy lifestyle choices with food and other substances, the importance of respecting each other and oneself, and understanding what a personal boundary is, as well as understanding the concept of privacy.

Grade 4 learners will practice skills such as identifying safe and unsafe behaviours within the context of personal lifestyle e.g. smoking, crossing the road in a safe way, as well as behaviours that are healthy or unhealthy for the environment.

The DBE will be surprised if this particular lesson set causes outrage among learners, parents, teachers - or the media - around age inappropriateness. We wonder what the motive of the journalist is in this regard.

Our Grade 4 learners are precious to everyone and we therefore urge the media to in future to contact us for accurate information regarding this vital textbook project.

Issued by: Department of Basic Education

South Africa

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