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Sexual health and education for children: UNICEF convenes Roundtable Discussion

UNICEF South Africa/2015/Reddy
© UNICEF South Africa/2015/Reddy
A learner from Princess High school addresses the Roundtable.

Pretoria, 27 May 2015: Issues around children and sexuality are often contentious with strong views on all sides.

On the 5th of May 2015, the Department of Basic Education introduced its Draft National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for public comment. The policy aims to deliver on children’s right to health and basic education by making available a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health rights, information and services including condoms and HIV-testing in school. This is in keeping with the global strategy to end the HIV-epidemic, to which South Africa is a signatory. In the media and on other public forums, strong views have been expressed both in support of, and in opposition to the draft policy.

In order to shed light on this critical issue and ensure evidence-informed discussions, UNICEF South Africa convened a half-day Roundtable Discussion in Pretoria. Invited to the event were representatives of Government, school governing body associations, learners themselves, teacher trade unions, educational institution and academic think-tanks, collectively representing a wide variety of views and experiences.

In her opening remarks, UNICEF South Africa Deputy Representative, Dr Yulia Krieger commended the Department for “a bold, forward-looking and rights-based policy geared towards ensuring that all children, including the most vulnerable enjoy the right to quality basic education by addressing key health and social barriers to teaching and learning.”

Presentations by the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health as well as the Congress of South African Students, LoveLife and Section 27 led to a lively discussion period during which divergent views were expressed.

Four learners from Princess High School in Roodepoort, spoke about the reality of sexuality in high schools while expressing their support for the Draft Policy which they see as a necessary and meaningful response to the challenges many learners face. The students were then interviewed by ENCA television news as part of media coverage of the Roundtable.

UNICEF also drafted a Media Statement, signed by many of the participating organisations, which endorsed the Draft Policy and which was disseminated among media and civil society partners (see link).

The Roundtable provided an open and useful platform for these important issues to be discussed and debated and UNICEF was commended for bringing together a variety of partners and views to take the process forward. 

Read more:

Joint Media Statement by UNICEF and partners in support of the Department of Basic Education making available sexual and reproductive health services in schools

Pupils hail new sex education policy but churches are unhappy (ENCA)





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