Online group #LeaveOurKidsAlone says it is waging a war against an ideology sponsored by the United Nations and put in practice by the department of basic education (DBE).
The group was established to oppose the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and scripted lesson plans in schools, and claims to have more than 100 000 members.
The Facebook group had this week planned pickets across the country against comprehensive sexuality education. It said the protest is a shot across government’s bow and that the group’s members are against what they call the “brainwashing” of children.
“Our children are being sold out to organisations like the United Nations, who want the resources of our country,” said group founder Lauren Evanthia. “The political system is oppressive in this country. It is about people who are after money and power.”
Evanthia is herself the leader of the Organic Humanity Movement (OHM) party, which is registered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa.
Evanthia told the Mail & Guardian that the group is standing up for the rights of parents, and its online membership numbers prove that family values are under attack. “It’s not a formal movement. But in the last three months, our [Facebook] group has 135 000 members. We didn’t expect that much support. I am glad there are still so many conservative parents who still believe in family values because that is being attacked by the mainstream media and mainstream culture that is actually a minority in South Africa.”
She added: “The majority of South Africans [are] conservative, religious people, who still believe that parental rights go above children’s rights and especially when it comes to what children are educated on. It seems to me schools have become an indoctrination camp to increase state power and that is what we are fighting.”
The group’s social media page is dotted with religious quotes and calls for parents to wear white clothing in support of their campaign.
Evanthia said she recognises that it would take formal political and policy proposals to remove comprehensive sexuality education from the curriculum. But for now, the group is about raising awareness among parents. “We don’t plan to formalise the group. It is a platform where parents can get information on CSE … We’re going to show our strength, and depending on what government decided to react to our protest, we will decide what to do further.”
Positive values and attitudes
The basic education department has been at pains to clarify that comprehensive sexuality education is not sex education and that the lessons have been part of life orientation classes since 2000.
“CSE has been part of the South African curriculum for almost 20 years. It provides scientifically accurate information [and] builds positive values and attitudes, which enables young people to safely navigate the transition to adulthood,” the department said in a statement last year.
“The school subjects life orientation and life skills for primary school learners is the best vehicle to present sexuality education. Evidence has shown that CSE that is scientifically accurate, age-appropriate and culturally relevant; has the ability to delay sexual [activity] among adolescents; increases safe sexual practice by way of condom and overall contraceptive usage among sexually active adolescents; and increases knowledge about sexual behaviour and its consequences,” an explainer document on the department’s website reads.
Evanthia believes that CSE and the scripted lessons that teachers deliver — being piloted in five provinces — are prematurely exposing children to sexuality. She argues parents’ rights are being stripped from them. “We should be teaching our children morals and values. Instead, we have teenagers looking for blessers [and] old men taking advantage of children and getting them pregnant. We have a complete moral breakdown in society.”
The department of basic education said all scripted lessons are age-appropriate that have been developed by researchers and an advisory panel. And, although online opposition has been vocal, various education and sexual health nongovernmental organisations and civil society bodies have come out in support of comprehensive sexuality education.