‘Let par­ents rule on pupil con­doms’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - FRANCESCA VIL­LETTE

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

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