The influence of sexuality education on learners' relationships.
Sexuality education is a controversial subject, which gave rise to many heated debates about whether sexuality education should be taught in schools. Many studies found that parents, although the primary educators of sexuality, were abdicating this very important responsibility. This led to their children seeking information from their peers and the media. A few children turned to their teachers whom they could trust. With the increase in teenage pregnancies, child rape and HIV/AIDS, the Minister of National Education, Prof. Kader Asmal, advocated that sexuality education should be taught in schools and not left solely to the parents. Hence, he mandated the implementation of sexuality education in schools in 2002. One of the vital components of sexuality education is teaching children about relationships, not specifically sexual relationships but relationships with significant others. An extensive literature survey revealed that there was a paucity of research in this area. Hence, this study investigated the influence sexuality education in schools was having on Grade 7 learners' relationships with parents, teachers and peers. Learners needed to communicate with their parents, teachers and peers on matters pertaining to sexuality as they experienced it, in order to improve their relationships. Schools were expected to use the whole school policy approach in implementing sexuality education in order to fortify the learners' relationships with others. The purpose of this study was to find out if implementing sexuality education in schools was improving learners' relationships with significant others. Indian and Black learners from two schools in Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal, were selected to participate in the study. Data were gathered by means of a questionnaire and selected semi-structured interviews. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of the results revealed that many learners were turning to same gender learners and Life Orientation teachers to talk to on matters pertaining to sexuality. However, they expressed feeling uncomfortable and shy when discussing sexuality related issues, especially with parents, other teachers and opposite gender learners. Most of the learners preferred confiding in their mothers or female teachers on issues regarding sexuality. It was also found that boys and girls preferred to be separated during sexuality education sessions because they felt more at ease with their own gender peers. Overall, it was found that the whole school policy approach to teaching sexuality education was not very successful, as reflected in the variable responses to the influence of sexuality education on learners' relationships with others. The findings of this study led to the following recommendations being made to the Department of Education: engaging in more intensive workshops to promote the whole school policy approach to teaching sexuality education in schools; devising a proper monitoring system to check the implementation of sexuality education in schools; engaging female Life Orientation teachers and screening sexuality education teachers. As the relationship between Life Orientation teachers and learners appeared to be positive, Life Orientation teachers could serve as facilitators to bridge the gap amongst all relevant stakeholders involved in the learners' education regarding sexuality. Other teachers could improve their relationship with learners by trying to integrate sexuality education into their learning areas, which would allow learners to develop rapport and trust with them when discussing sexuality issues. Most importantly, a suggestion was made to parents to form a partnership with schools to strengthen their relationships with their children. Children are bound to communicate more effectively with their parents about sexuality if they see their parents liaising with the schools and showing an active interest in their progress. Finally, it must be noted that this study is not without limitations. The chosen sample was not representative of the entire population of KwaZulu-Natal. Therefore the results cannot be generalised. This study was also limited racially to Indian and Black learners.