By Daniela Ellerbeck, FOR SA legal advisor
At the meeting between the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and religious and traditional leaders in Pretoria on Thursday January 23 , the DBE’s Deputy Director-General, Dr Granville Whittle, in no uncertain terms stated that once the pilot phase has been completed, scripted lesson plans (SLPs) for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) will be implemented nationally in all public schools and taught to all learners from Grades R to 12.
He made it very clear that the SLPs (consisting of an educator guide for teachers, and a learner workbook for pupils) will be compulsory, and that there will be no “opt-out” for parents who are uncomfortable with the content.
At a meeting with teacher unions and school governing body associations (including Fedsas) the very next day (on Friday January 24), however, the department apparently stated the exact opposite – namely that SLPs will not be compulsory for teachers to use and that they (and public schools) are free to teach sexuality education from alternative sources. In other words, while the curriculum will remain the same, schools will still be free to choose the material they want to use to achieve the stated outcomes.
This assurance by the DBE clearly contradicts what was stated a day before, but is also contrary to the Minister of Basic Education’s earlier reply to a written question by Honourable Marchesi MP, wherein she stated that teachers would be subject to disciplinary action if they refuse to teach CSE.
In light of its clearly contradictory messages, FOR SA has written to the DBE this week for clarification to ascertain what precisely the department’s final position is with regard to SLPs (whether they are compulsory or not) and whether this will be encapsulated in an official policy document.
FOR SA is currently still awaiting an answer from the Department.