Parents’ Role In Sex Education
By Imelda Diouf – The conversation about comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) being taught in schools as part of life orientation, is getting louder and shriller and ever more visual.
A banner seen recently in the Pretoria area states boldly: “Teach our kids maths, NOT masturbation.” The Department of Basic Education is responding just as strongly, distributing posters on CSE.
The information shared on sexual violence and teenage pregnancy reflects the harsh reality of the lives of teenagers, and it’s frightening for many parents who entrust children to a school system for up to eight hours a day.
The National Adoption Coalition of South Africa (Nacsa) cites that 65% of abandoned children are newborn and 90% are younger than a year.
Abandonment locations include bins, rubbish dumps, sewers, gutters, drains and toilets. Who knows the real numbers—3000 or 5000 or 10000 children every year? No-one is counting.
What we do know is that according to StatsSA, the rate of teenage unwanted births has dropped—and not because teenagers are not sexually active.
Ultimately, illegal termination of pregnancy or the abandonment of babies might be what teenage mothers see as inevitable.
Families are not voiceless. Parents do not need to be bullied into a position, either by government departments or organisations, mainly Church-affiliated groups, who speak in the name “the family”.
Surely parents and teachers should be in a position to speak on both subjects? Teachers do not own the mathematics discourse and parents certainly do not own the sexual health dialogue.
So where does the conversation start? What topics and who takes responsibility?
Any conversation with a teenager is difficult; more so on the topic of sex (including masturbation).
Parents need to step up and assert that they, as first but not last educators of children, have the right to grab the space of communication with their children, on all issues of family life.
But parents also need to accept that children will be informed and educated by teachers, the media, Church leaders, community members and peers. As a result, parents must be willing to become more engaged with the teaching and learning process, through more direct communication with their children, more contact with teachers and school governing bodies.
Parents must be active partners, not adversaries, of the Department of Basic Education, in ensuring a relevant life orientation programme. ln all areas where children are the recipients of information, parents do not need to stand by as silent partners.
Politicians, religious leaders, friends and the dreaded social media are constantly messaging our children, who are often willing recipients of information that matters to them.
Instead of saying NO to messaging, let’s rather participate in shaping the message and ultimately become part of the conversation.
Imelda Diouf is the director of the Sekwele Family Strengthening Programme (www.sekwele.org).