Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Department of Basic Education said on Wednesday it would provide male and female condoms in schools and information on their use in line with the new national policy on HIV, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis (TB).

Children above the age of 12 have the right of access to health services including sexual and reproductive health services, without having to seek parental consent.

Changes to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill allow children between the ages of 12 and 16 to consent to sexual acts with one another.

The department has earmarked R245m towards the policy for the 2017 financial year to ensure pupils receive sexual and reproductive healthcare services and comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said HIV/AIDS and TB posed challenges to the system as they eroded the basic education sector’s capacity to retain teachers and officials.

"Equally, these diseases pose a significant risk to the attainment of quality basic education as they impact the efficiency, quality and output of the sector," Motshekga said.

The department said the policy would also include gender, gender identity and gender expression in the curriculum.

SA is the first country in the world to have an education sector policy on HIV/AIDS and TB aimed at ensuring an HIV-free youth generation by 2030. SA has an estimated 2,000 new HIV infections weekly in adolescent girls and young women 15 to 24 years old.

International medical humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders (MSF) welcomed the policy, saying the key aspect was that it moved away from the 2011 integrated school health policy by clarifying that implementation was not the responsibility of school governing bodies.

The medical co-ordinator of MSF in SA, Amir Shroufi, said the need for sexual and reproductive healthcare services in schools was clear and urgent, but implementation was hindered by a combination of policy gaps and some resistance to these services on local levels.

"This means that much of the opportunity to protect school children from HIV has been missed," he said.

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