The gendered assumptions of national and provincial policy documents in South Africa : teachers, sexuality and HIV/AIDS education in schools.
In the recent past, teachers in South African secondary schools have begun to give lessons on life skills, sexuality and HIV/AIDS. The lessons are located within the curriculum in the learning areas of Life Orientation and Life Skills. These lessons are guided by policy documents which regulate what, when and how much information the learners must have access to. Issues explicitly concerning gender are addressed in these lessons as well. Although policy documents provide clear guidelines as to how policy should be implemented, teachers are still experiencing difficulties delivering life skills, sexuality and HIV/AIDS lessons. Consequently lessons pertaining to these issues are usually minimised in favour of less sensitive topics. Many reasons have been suggested for the poor implementation of these lessons, some of which include inadequate teacher training, a lack of support structures and services, and teacher attitudes and beliefs. Although the way policy is implemented is cause for concern, this dissertation focuses on the assumptions about gender that are concealed by policy documents, which in turn, impacts on the way these documents are interpreted and implemented by teachers. The purpose of this dissertation is to analyse national and provincial South African education policy documents for the gendered assumptions they make about teachers of life skills, sexuality and HIV/AIDS education. Although policy documents are "based on principles of gender equity" (Tallis, 2000: 58), this research tries to establish whether any gender assumptions exist about teachers of life skills, sexuality and HIV/AIDS education, that limit how effectual these policy documents are at the stage of implementation. The gendered neutrality of these documents conforms to the requirements of the South African Constitution, in that they are non-discriminatory. Given the inequalities of the apartheid era, it is possible to regard the use of genderless language in policy documents as progress towards the goals of gender equity. However, not differentiating between males and females is also problematic. Unequal gender power relations that exist between males and females ensure that their experiences are not the same. There are unintended consequences that flow from the use of gender-neutral terminology in policy documents and these include that the gendered realities of teachers are not taken into account and this may well be a reason for the reluctance or inability of teachers successfully to teach lessons on sexuality and HIV/AIDS.