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Northern Cape project gets boys switched on about sex

The Northern Cape’s education department has launched a project to reduce learner pregnancies at schools — sex education for boys.

Sex education is generally taught during life orientation lessons but this is the first such school intervention aimed specifically at boys.

The John Taolo Gaetsewe district was chosen for the project because it had the highest percentage of girls under 18 giving birth in the province, said Dr Tshego Gopane, the head of the Emancipation of the Girl Child Learner programme.

In the 2014-2015 financial year, 71 583 of the country’s 964 901 births were to under-18s. At least 11% were from the John Taolo Gaetsewe area.

According to Gopane, the programme initially targeted girls only but extended its scope “because girls don’t fall pregnant by themselves”.

Images are projected on to a screen to show boys from schools in the district how to put on a condom and they are reassured that it’s not abnormal to have morning erections. They are taught about sexually transmitted diseases by trained peer facilitators.

But Gopane stressed that the main message was abstinence. “We realised that to preach abstinence does not mean they will abstain. However, we highlight abstinence as the key.”

She said some of the things discussed in the programme are self-esteem, peer pressure, decision-making, healthy behaviour, how to avoid falling pregnant and where to access contraceptives.

Of the girls’ programme, she said: “Girls want clarity on contraception and clarity on a lot of technical details about contraception. The biggest reason that they come up [with] for falling pregnant is peer pressure and a lack of information. There are also a lot of myths — for example, a girl won’t get pregnant if the boy withdraws during sexual intercourse.

“It’s adolescents who were unable to make the right decision,” she said.

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Prega Govender
Prega Govender is the Mail & Guardians education editor. He was a journalist at the Sunday Times for almost 20 years before joining the M&G in May 2016. He has written extensively on education issues pertaining to both the basic and higher education sectors.

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