‘Let parents rule on pupil condoms’
PARENTS should have the last word on whether their child’s school should be allowed to supply pupils with condoms, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said yesterday.
A new Department of Basic Education policy, which was approved by the cabinet, allows for school pupils as young as 12 to have regular access to condoms.
The report – “The National Policy on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and TB” – was drafted in 2015 and the public was allowed to comment on it.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it was part of a national effort in responding to HIV, STIs and TB, and was based on the best available evidence coupled with wide consultation.
Sadtu national general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said parents and school governing bodies needed to be involved in decision making when it came to implementing the strategy.
“Every community is unique, and this should be taken into consideration. We encourage parents to get involved,” Maluleke said.
It is estimated that 7 million South Africans are HIV-positive, with about 270 000 new HIV infections annually.
The policy allows pupils to have discreet access to male and female condoms, and information on how to use them.
“We know the protective role that education can play in reducing young people’s vulnerability to HIV, STIs, TB, unintended early pregnancy and harmful behaviour in general. South Africa has an estimated 2 000 new HIV infections each week in adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 years.
“This is a situation we cannot allow to continue,” Motshekga said.
The Criminal Law Amendment Bill states that children between the ages of 12 and 16 may consent to sexual acts with one another.
Motshekga said children above the age of 12 therefore had the right to access health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, without having to seek parental consent.
The school curriculum will also encompass information on HIV, STIs, pregnancy and TB, including dual protection contraception, HIV testing, STI screening and treatment, and information on medical male circumcision.
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson, Jessica Shelver, said school governing bodies would decide on implementation.
“We are supportive of measures to reduce HIV and STIs, but as the MEC has raised at (Council of Education Ministers) meetings, the department keeps on adopting new policies without allocating the provinces increased funding.
“If the intention is that provincial education departments fund it, then they must be provided with the funds to do so,” Shelver said.
Governing Body Foundation national chief executive Tim Gordon said considering that children as young as 12 were engaging in sexual activity, it was necessary to offer pupils protection.
The foundation represents 700 schools nationally.
“No matter one’s feelings, you have to take into consideration the high rate at which STIs and HIV are spread.
“We agree that pupils should have access to condoms if it is handed discreetly and sensitively,” Gordon said.
You have to take into account the rate at which HIV is spread