The National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB, (DBE, 2017) aims to address and mitigate factors that contribute to high rates of teenage pregnancy, HIV infections and unhealthy sexual and reproductive health decisions by adolescents. The policy sets a policy goal “to accelerate implementation of a comprehensive strategy” for addressing “increased knowledge, cognitive skills and information about safer sex, life skills in general.” (DBE, 2017). The Foundation Phase Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) Life Skills is where it is possible to take a Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) approach to introduce relevant, age- and grade-appropriate knowledge and concepts in the early grades. This provides an opportunity for increasing the knowledge-base for good decisions related to healthy sexuality and reproductive health in learners, as early as grades R to 3. The intention of equipping young learners in the Foundation Phase with appropriate and relevant knowledge and skills is to strengthen what decisions they will make about their own sexual behaviour and so reduce their own risky behaviour later as adolescents. There are however some gaps in content in the Life Skills Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for grades R to 3. Teachers need support to be able to teach Sexuality Education (SE) effectively in the classroom.
The aim of this qualitative study is to identify how CSE can be incorporated in the CAPS in the early grades and determine what support teachers need to teach SE in the curriculum effectively, taking a comprehensive approach to strengthening its inclusion in the curriculum. To this end, the study’s primary research question “How can CSE be strengthened in the Life Skills curriculum in the Foundation Phase?” was used to guide semi-structured interviews with Life Skills Foundation Phase teachers and heads of department in selected schools as well as Life Skills district-based subject advisors in Gauteng. In order to answer this question the following sub-questions were asked:
· What is meant by CSE and SE?
· What are the gaps in the current LO curriculum? · What kind of support do teachers need to assist them to implement the CSE programme?
Foundation Phase Life Skills teachers, heads of department and district subject advisors provided their own understanding of the challenges associated with teaching SE in the early grades and identified what factors exist in the classroom that most challenge their daily teaching of SE in the Life Skills curriculum. They identified the following: lack of teacher knowledge and understanding of teaching CSE in the early grades, content gaps in the curriculum and lack of support from different stake holders and resource materials. Foundation Phase Life Skills teachers, heads of department and district subject advisors were able to make recommendations on what kind of support they needed, which methodologies would best support their teaching and raised their own preparedness, confidence and comfort levels to teach the SE content effectively. The subject advisors, who were not always Life Skills-specific subject specialists, provided important data on what is needed to support curriculum implementation and contributed significant information for setting up support for teachers and districts in their teaching of SE within Life Skills. From the study recommendations, policy makers and curriculum developers, as well as teachers in the classroom themselves, will be able to use the evidence to influence curriculum content, teacher methodology and curriculum support strategies to strengthen CSE in the Foundation Phase.