Values, Rights and Power in Accessing Comprehensive Sexuality Education By Young Adolescents in South Africa

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Mokhantso MAKOAE, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa
The UN Child Rights Convention identifies the right of children to survival, healthy development and information as key to children’s health and wellbeing. The 1994 International Conference on Population Development gave new impetus to governments to develop strategies that protect the right of adolescents to information and access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for adolescents was identified as central to such strategies. Adolescents’ SRH concerns in South Africa have increased raising questions about the appropriateness of sexual education for adolescents. This paper reviews policy assumptions and cultural, rights and power-related factors influencing sexuality education.

A cross-sectional survey using a questionnaire (n=748) and focus group discussions among a sample of adolescent learners aged 10 to 14 years were used to collect data in eight rural schools in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. The topics covered were adolescents’ living arrangements, puberty, sources of information about puberty and SRH needs. Survey data was captured and analysed using SPSS and STATA software. Qualitative data was analysed thematically. Critical literature review including of policy assumptions and implementation on sexuality education for adolescents was conducted.

About 54.1% of the sample were girls and about two-thirds (73.1%) were aged 10 to 12 years. Some of the respondents lacked knowledge about puberty. Mother was the most important source of information on puberty. Mother, school teacher, own sister, health facilities and personnel were identified as important sources of information on puberty and SRH. Those who visited health facilities reported that they saw communication materials on contraceptives, abortion, had a talk about contraception or requested contraceptive. Only 24% of the participants visiting health facilities reported that health personnel talked to them about puberty. Young adolescents’ most important sources of sexual education are unlikely to provide them with CSE. Current information material do not cover puberty.