Namibia: Religious leaders alarmed by sex education

Life Skills as a non-promotional subject is taught in schools from Grade 4 to 12 and CSE is integrated under the holistic wellness topic, where in Grade 4 it focuses on puberty, good and bad touch and the risks of skin cancer, amongst others.

There has lately also been an outcry from parents and community members, who feel CSE is not age-appropriate and culturally relevant for local learners.

Church leaders raised their concerns about the CSE manual after the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Sanet Steenkamp, made a presentation at the #BeFree movement event organised First Lady Monica Geingos on Monday. 

Reacting to Steenkamp’s presentation, a local pastor said: “CSE is from the devil” and that most parents were not aware of the explicit content of the manual. Therefore, several pastors called for another opportunity and platform for consultation on the CSE manual.

One said the CSE manual should be sensitive to the country’s culture and the predominant religion. Hence, the participation of church leaders, parents and people in rural areas needs to be considered. “We want to know our children are safe in schools,” the pastor lamented.

In her presentation, Steenkamp explained that CSE does not focus on sexual intercourse, nor does it teach learners how to have sex.

“It does not encourage young people to have sex. It does not teach young people how to take away their innocence by engaging in promiscuity.” She noted that it also does not follow an ‘abstinence until marriage approach’.

Steenkamp said the manual proposes abstinence as an option, but aims to respond to the reality of the situation that not everybody will abstain. She said the CSE manual by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is under review. Namibia has made its input on issues relevant to the country.

She said the manual was produced for 20 countries and serves as guideline. It does not say teachers must tick off everything.

“We have our own curriculum and syllabi. If you go through it, it talks about sexual identity ,sexual intimacy, reproductive and sexual health, incest and rape. It talks about things we don’t want to talk about.

“We have found that a sexual debut for many 13-year-old girls has not been a sugar daddy, but a family member (incest), or stepfather or [biological] father. We must move past feeling uncomfortable with topics such as this.”

Steenkamp said for example in Grade 4, learners are taught about good and bad touch and only address baby dumping in Grade 9. Read more via New Era