Less hysteria about CSE and more homework by Christian parents recommended — Debbie Hemmens

Earlier this year I started to see posts on social media urging me to sign a petition against CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality education) being implemented in our SA curriculum.

It’s not the first time this petition has done the rounds on social media. I had seen some of the American videos promoting this and it was scary, mainly due to the fact that it appeared that children were not being steered away from sexual engagement, but rather given some safe sex principles and even shown how to implement them.

I signed the petition at that stage, not realising then that a reworked CSE has apparently been a part of our SA government schools curriculum since 2000. My three children (now all out of school), therefore, had been exposed to this throughout their entire school careers, and I realised that I had gone through their LO books every year and there had never been anything alarming.

Just to give you a bit of background about myself before I continue — over the last seven years I have been increasingly involved in giving abstinence and better sexual choices talks in primary and high schools.

I am very active on social media and have read all the articles on “abstinence only” teaching not working. I understand, to a certain extent, why this has happened. When you speak to young people and say: “Don’t have sex until you are married” without giving them a “why” to hang onto, you don’t get their buy-in.

When we see the value in something, we are far more likely to hold onto it. If we give a message of “one way only” and don’t engage with those young people who think it’s ok and are experimenting sexually, then we are not being helpful or wise in mentoring young people.

As much as we (as Christians) may know this is God’s blueprint for our lives, we also need to remember that God has given each and every one of us free choice and we can never force someone to believe what we believe or follow our ways. We can point them to God to follow Him and follow his ways, but it is still their choice and each person is responsible for their own choices and the consequences that follow.

So, I absolutely and always encourage young people in these two things – sex is for adults and sex is best left for the security and commitment of the marriage relationship. I speak in government schools frequently and there are two things that need to be remembered there – our government is secular and therefore so are our schools, and we need to abide by the SA Constitution when speaking at a government institution.

This does not mean I let go of my values or morals; I just don’t get to force them onto young people. It also doesn’t mean I can’t have very meaningful and helpful conversations and discussions with them within the confines of what I just explained.

I have also been trained as a practitioner in Protective Behaviours which is, in essence, an abuse-proof programme. I am about to embark on “train the trainer” with PB.

I have become extremely passionate in the area of sexual safety over the last few years and know that the earlier we educate our children in safety concepts and speak age-appropriately about sexual issues, the better their chances are of staying safe sexually, and not engaging in early sexual experimentation.

I know sex outside the confines of marriage is not a good or godly choice and leads to untold heartache, but the reality is that many are engaging in sex and we need to be able to speak to them as to why they have made this choice and all the risks involved.

At the same time, I always spend time encouraging those who have made the choice to wait until marriage.

I think it might be helpful if we spoke about sex information rather than sex education, because I fear that the word “education” has got a lot of people tripped up for some reason. It seems that way too many people in SA think that by talking about sex, we are educating their kids into how to have and enjoy sex. This could not be further from the truth for myself and many I know in the sex-ed field.

I don’t ever teach “safe sex” to young people. I say to them that there are ways you can make it safer, but it will never be risk-free in the hook-up culture that we live in. Condom companies cannot even provide a guarantee of 100% safety, but they do provide a level of safety if used correctly, but they certainly cannot save you from a broken heart.

Yes, there are many organisations/sexologists that do promote enjoyment and safe sex and I follow a few of them on Facebook and Instagram so that I can see what is going on in the world.

I think that many of the messages on the Facebook pages of groups like the ACDP and #LeaveOurKidsAlone and of thousands of SA citizens are unhelpful when they are based on misinformation that is being circulated, and just call CSE evil and for it to be removed from our schools.

All hysteria with no solutions whatsoever for the millions of kids in our country! I have only seen one article by someone who is against CSE offer a solution if it was removed. His suggestion was to re-create the sex-ed in schools to be values-based instead of rights-based.

My biggest concern all along has been that we cannot lose sexuality education in our schools. It is vital for our children, mainly because not enough is happening through parents and too many kids do not have parents to have these conversations with.

Many people have now had a look at material that the DBE has published and which it says are its lesson plans for CSE in LO classes. Many have found the material to be good and age-appropriate, but I do realise there might still be things that go against the Christian faith, but we do need to remember our government schools are secular.

The other thing is the sex-ed teaching is about eight hours over an entire year, but the internet is available 24/7 and there’s always someone who has unprotected access even if your child does not have a phone or the internet. First porn exposure is now from around 8-years-old and often accidental due to a kid hearing a word at school, then being too scared to ask their parents and so they Google it and land up on all sorts of sites that are horrific. We need to be having these conversations with them.

I am pretty convinced that our government will persist in keeping their current sex-ed material in place, so we do need solutions for those who are concerned.

There are answers and solutions available right now. There are many things parents can do to train and prepare their children for what they will encounter at school and how to function well in this world. Christian parents can add their value and belief system into the teaching. We cannot avoid coming into contact with evil in our world, so the best way to counter that is to prepare and educate our children, and then pray for them.

Parents’ voices will always be louder than the culture as long as they have been honest and consistent from young with many conversations. Make sure you are “Google”’ for your kids. Create a culture of trust by opening the space for any questions and keeping your promise to give honest but age-appropriate answers.

The Protective Behaviours (PB) programme is a vital inclusion into teaching children about body autonomy and personal body safety. It is an abuse-proof programme that maintains innocence by empowering the child to pick up on things that are coming into their world that are not ok.

Abuse knows no age limits and it’s the young children who are preyed on because they are vulnerable and know no better because too many parents think it’s always too early to start having conversations with their children. We worry about “too much, too soon”, but what we too often get is “too little, too late”.All children who have gone through PB have loved and enjoyed it and have been empowered as a result.

There are many organisations that are offering talks to parents to help them on the journey of teaching their kids about sex. I offer this through “Pilot my Future” (Facebook @pilotmyfuture / www.hemmens.co.za ) and I include many of the PB concepts to give parents great tools to take home.

The parents who have been a part of these talks have appreciated the input and we have had great Q & A sessions at the end which allow parents to hear what other parents are experiencing in their homes and to learn from each other.

One of the most empowering statements in life is “me too”. Conversations about sexuality start from birth where we start referring to sexual body parts by their correct names, so that we can normalise it for ourselves and become comfortable with the words, so that we don’t create a weird extra set of language for anything sexual. Our children start learning from our words and attitudes way earlier then we realise.

To end off I would like to quote 2 Timothy 1:7 — “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” I feel that some Christians are responding out of fear and lack of knowledge and that is not what God wants of us. He has called us to go out into the world, not to shy away from it.

We need to approach this area with boldness and confidence and realise that as citizens of heaven we have a responsibility as parents and citizens of the country we abide in to train children up in the way they should go.

When things come across our path (like some of the teachings in secular schools) that we don’t agree with or that don’t align with Biblical standards, then we need to make sure that we are making wise and godly decisions for our lives and leading those in our care to do the same. And I say lead, not force. Our lives are being watched and our impact and influence is always there whether we speak or not.


  1. Eleanor Poulter

    Perhaps Debbie should have a good look at the Lesson Plans and the Teachers’ Guides on the DoE website.
    Parents and teachers who’ve looked at them are appalled.

  2. Thank you Debbie for your message & positive solutions. I am a grandmother & have not had to deal with all these issues personally. I am BC Before Computers!!! Blessings & love GranBee

  3. I see Eleanor has commented ahead of me and expressed some of my opinions and I agree having looked at the “instructional” or educational material that maybe Debbie needs to read the material through carefully before calling the likes of the ACDP into question.

    Then I would like to ask her to think about what would have happened if William Wilberforce the British politician (Christian) had not expected secular slave traders to stop selling slaves in the 1700’s?

    There have been many times in over the last two thousand when Christians have expected society around them to conform to godly and Christian ideals.

  4. Claude Cunningham

    Debbie is providing a refreshing and helpful response here. I have downloaded the materials and have been going through them. By and large the content is commendable, dealing as much or more in dealing with pressure and bullying as anything else. But it’s an awful lot to get through, and I haven’t seen it all.
    My main and very serious concern is that there is no reference to the damage strongly connected to inappropriate sex experience, whether physical or mental. And no reference to the law, the age of consent, the fact that females are so much more at risk than males. These need to be incorporated.
    The horrific material from overseas has not been incorporated locally, as far as I can see.

    • Debbie Hemmens

      Thank you Claude. It’s always great when someone reads the correct information. Your concerns are valid with what hasn’t been incorporated. It’s such a huge subject. I know many sex-ed people who do cover some of what you have raised. I too am glad that they left out the horrible graphic stuff – largely due to the input of education stakeholders like Protective Behaviours SA.

  5. Debbie gives NO solutions to the CSE as it now stands. She repeats what we know on how to bring up children
    She adresses none if the issues parents have a problem with.

    • Debbie Hemmens

      I believe what they have provided is helpful and age-appropriate if you are reading the correct curriculum. The repeat is to remind parents of the amazing opportunity they have and to use it from the young years. I am saying parents don’t need to be so concerned if they educate their children well before the school gives input. The school curriculum is way less of a concern then the internet.

  6. After a little more thought on this article perhaps a little more hysteria (I prefer alarm/concern) would be a good thing for Christian parents in South Africa it will only get worse.

    See how alarmed parents are in the USA and the disinformation by their education departments