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Teachers union warns of boycotting controversial CSE content

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The South African Teachers Union (SAOU) has revealed that the majority of teachers do not approve of the content prescribed in the controversial Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum, according to their research. The union says that one of the biggest concerns it has is that the curriculum does not offer parents, nor teachers, with different value systems – that are possibly in opposition to some of the content – any choice in the matter. The union’s spokesperson highlighted the importance of ensuring that communities are democratically included in the decision-making process when it comes to education and cautioned that if teachers find the content of the CSE to be contrary to their value systems, those teachers may boycott the seemingly problematic content.

READ MORE | ‘Inappropriate’ sexual content in SA school curriculum ignites public and religious outcry

“The Department of Basic Education has consulted with the various unions [on the CSE]. Some months ago there was a meeting… but the documentation that was presented to those attending the meeting at the time was relatively acceptable…” said SADTU’s media adviser, Ted Townsend.

However, Townsend indicated that after studying the latest examples of the prescribed content in the CSE, the union could only conclude that the department of basic education acted contrary to the undertakings of the last meeting, deliberately misled the meeting and that the information and examples provided to the meeting at the time were not accurate.

“One of our biggest concerns is that the curriculum doesn’t really suggest any choice – parents and teachers have their own value systems and approaches and it’s going to be really problematic in the manner in which it has been presented to us at the present time,” said Townsend.

“We are concerned that there may be, within the syllabus, opportunity for a different kind or different kinds of approaches that may not always accord with what the community at large, or a specific community or parent body, might desire. Different communities require different emphasis and different approaches.”

Townsend continued, adding that a follow-up consultation with the department that was supposed to take place has not happened. He stressed the importance of ensuring that all communities are part of the decisions made and warned of a boycott if the values, morals and comfortability of teachers were not respected – or at the very least, accounted for.

READ MORE | ‘Take back the space,’ says Mualima on CSE debate

“The follow-up consultation that was put on the table has not taken place… It is important to ensure that the community is part of the decisions made and the whole democratic process.”

“If our teachers are uncomfortable with the content of what they’re expected to teach, or if it goes against their value systems, [it has been noted that] they should boycott and refuse to teach that content,” he said.

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