The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education heard today that HIV-related deaths were declining in all age groups, accept for adolescents where infection rates have doubled. Mr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director-General in the Department of Basic Education, said there are 2 363 new HIV infections each week among African girls. “The epidemic amongst adolescents is growing. We are not on track to achieve an Aids-free generation.”
The Committee heard these statistics during a briefing from the department on learner wellness and social cohesion in schools. Acting Committee Chairperson Ms Nthibane Mokoto urged the adoption of behavioural change programmes in schools.
One of the contributing factors to the problem is the early sexual debut of teenagers, with 37% of children in grades 8 to 11 indicating that they are sexually active, according to a Youth Risk Behaviour Survey done by the Department of Health. Alcohol and drug use, high rates of gender-based violence, high drop-out rates and teenage pregnancy are also contributing factors.
Committee members were of the view that solutions cannot be found simply in the provision of condoms to learners. Committee member Ms Annette Lovemore asked if there was a link between the provisions of condoms and increased sexual behaviour. Another Committee member, Mr Dalton Khosa, said the department cannot just talk about the issuing of condoms and then forget about younger learners.
Committee member Mr Derick Mguni said life orientation was not taken seriously by learners as it lacked sufficient status.
Mr Whittle assured the Committee that the department is being systematic in targeting changes in curriculum, texts, teachers and governance. Behavioural change programmes, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, and universal sexual education programmes will form part of this. He emphasised that the interventions will be age-appropriate.
He also told the Committee about an integrated school health programme to deworm learners, which will be implemented later in the year. He o said the department will prioritise life orientation in the curriculum and in this regard will focus on the provision of quality, evidence-informed texts and improved teacher training.
Ms Mokoto said the Committee will continue to monitor these issues.
12 May 2015
Source : Parliament of South Africa