South African schools are introducing new ‘life skills’ classes

The Department of Basic Education is testing new scripted lesson plans with the aim of strengthening the ‘life skills’ curriculum at the country’s schools.

South African schools have offered lessons on HIV prevention and sexual education through the Life Orientation (LO) curriculum since 2000.

However, the high rates of learner pregnancy (from 71,234 in 2009 to 99,041 in 2013) and HIV infections (estimated at 2,000 weekly among girls aged 15-24) indicated that there has been no change in the behaviour of learners and many educators felt uncomfortable teaching sexuality education, the department said.

In response, the new lesson plans aimed at grades 4-12 have been designed to assist educators to teach scientifically accurate, evidence-informed, incremental, age-appropriate and culturally appropriate sexual education within the classroom, it said.

The lesson plans use a human rights approach which allows adolescents and young people to develop appropriate life skills to support healthy choices and promote gender equality.

“In 2017, the Department of Basic Education developed the national policy on HIV, STIs and TB for learners, educators, school support staff and officials in all primary and secondary schools in the basic education sector.

“This policy mandates the DBE to provide curriculum-based Sexuality Education and access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services as modalities to prevent new HIV infection and STIs, early unintended pregnancies amongst learners, school-related gender-based and to retain learners in schools.”

The issues that will be covered by the new curriculum include:

  • Relationships;
  • Values, rights, culture and sexuality;
  • Understanding gender;
  • Violence and staying safe;
  • Skills for health and wellbeing;
  • The human body and development;
  • Sexuality and sexual behaviour;
  • Sexual and reproductive health.

The lesson plans are currently being tested in 1,572 schools across five provinces including the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.

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South African schools are introducing new ‘life skills’ classes