The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has distanced itself from a recent article stipulating that Grade 4 learners would be taught about masturbation in the new Life Orientation curriculum, and has refuted these claims. The article titled “Grade 4s to learn about masturbation in new life orientation curriculum” has started a debate which has spread to radio talk shows and social media platforms.

“The article is misleading and in fact, a complete misrepresentation of the work the Department is doing,” Elijah Mhlanga, DBE spokesperson, said. “It’s unfortunate that the article published has now caused mass hysteria unnecessarily and has caused confusion.”

According to Mhlanga, the journalist who wrote the original article provided false information by quoting the Director-General of the department, Mathanzima Mweli. The DBE maintains that the conversation the journalist had with Mweli was on a related matter, not the matter of masturbation being introduced to the Grade 4 curriculum.

Contrary to what the article says, the facts are as follows:

  1. The new Life Orientation textbook for Grade 4 currently being written does not cover masturbation.
  2. The textbook content for sexuality education in this grade is guided by UNESCO’S International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach (2018), as well as by the input and guidance of research and evidence-based on highly respected South African institutions.
  3. Grade 4s will learn, in an age-appropriate and sensitive way, how reproduction works and encourages learners to share what celebrations they know of linked to welcoming children into the world, such as Imbeleko.
  4. The lesson set also covers being unique and special, healthy lifestyle choices with food and other substances, the importance of respecting each other and oneself, and understanding what a personal boundary is, as well as understanding the concept of privacy.
  5. Grade 4 learners will practice skills such as identifying safe and unsafe behaviours within the context of personal lifestyle, e.g. smoking, crossing the road in a safe way, as well as behaviours that are healthy or unhealthy for the environment.

“Our Grade 4 learners are precious to everyone and we, therefore, urge the media to in future to contact us for accurate information regarding this vital textbook project,” Mhlanga said.

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Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.