There has been a lot of noise around the proposed addition of “sex education material” to the Life Orientation curriculum of primary school learners. Teachers and parents alike are enraged, saying the material is “too much, too soon”. There have been posts saying the following about the leaked curriculum: “That in Grade 4 leaners, ‘Will engage in group discussions to identify each other's ‘private parts’. (Yes, your innocent little girl will have her private parts identified by a group of young boys).” 

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However, the Department of Basic Education has rejected the claims in a statement, saying they are misleading and taken out of context. “Lesson 4.2 in the Grade 4 Scripted Lesson Plans (SLP) on respecting the bodies of others and Activity A: The group discussion in the lesson has no reference to learners identifying each other’s private parts rather it asks learners to discuss which parts of their body are private and they would not allow others to touch, using a worksheet with a picture of a boy and a girl, and not using their bodies as the writer of this article implies,” they explain.

In their statement, the department says the information is not new and they are simply trying to ensure that children are aware of abuse and consent, and that this will hopefully lower the teenage pregnancy rate.

We can’t deny that we’re a very conservative country. Some parents may find it awkward or taboo talking to their children about sex, leaving it up to school or waiting for the perfect time. This has me thinking: when is the right time to then talk to children about sex?

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Faiza Khota, head of department at Childline Gauteng, had this  to say: 

There's no right age

Young children are very curious about their bodies. Adults need to be honest with children in an age-appropriate way. The discussion about sex starts when children become aware of their bodies and those of others. One of the earliest questions that parents are faced with is, “where do babies come from?”

Teaching moments 

Use opportunities such as watching TV shows together to understand your child’s opinions and be able to give input. Talking to your child about puberty is a good start to the conversation and an opportunity to explain all the physical developments their body will go through. Give enough information relevant to their age and don’t panic.

Be open 

Communication and how you handle the sex talk will be the foundation of whether or not they will be able to approach you with other serious conversations in future. 

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Values and responsibility 

Parents need to accept the fact that if they have a teenager, s/he is the one who is going to make big decisions as far as his or her sexuality is concerned. As a parent, all you can do is to teach your child to take responsibility for his/her actions and give them the information they need to make sound decisions.