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This past Sunday 12th May, the Sunday Times had an article headed ” Sex lessons for modern grade 4s “. 

Did you see it? Read it? What were your immediate thoughts about it? Apparently, the new Life Orientation books will cover subjects on sex not currently addressed. That said, personally, I believe that it’s important that we learn about more about our diverse communities, so that we can appreciate our differences more. Sex education is part of that learning. Kids in Grade 4 will start to experience changes to their body, it’s important for them to learn how to deal with it without shame. Not all will have someone to discuss it with. They may be in a classroom with other students whose family structure is made up of either two moms, two dads, or are being raised by a grandparent or are from a different religion. It’s important that they understand why without judging. 


“Children as young as nine years old will learn about masturbation…” – Sunday Times


Sex Education + Grade 4I appreciate that kids today tend to be more progressive than us older generation kids, but my first response to it was, isn’t it too early for a 9 year old to be learning about masturbation? Surely, at this level, it should be more about the changes they will be experiencing in the next year or two to their bodies? What it means and what to expect, surely that would suffice at this age?


“The Department of Basic Education distances itself from the article published in the Sunday Times yesterday, 12 May.” – Department of Basic Education


The Department of Basic Education(DBE) has distanced itself from the Sunday Times article, saying it is misleading. 

DBE does confirm the following:

  1. The new Life Orientation textbook for Grade 4 currently being written does not cover masturbation.
  2. The textbook content for sexuality education in this grade is guided by UNESCO’S International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach (2018), as well as by the input and guidance of research and evidence-based highly respected South African institutions.
  3. The Grade 4s will learn, in the most age-appropriate and sensitive way, how babies are made and encourage learners to share what celebrations they know of linked to welcoming children into the world, such as Imbeleko (the embryo).
  4. The lesson set also covers being unique and special, healthy lifestyle choices with food and other substances, the importance of respecting each other and oneself, and understanding what a personal boundary is, as well as understanding the concept of privacy.
  5. Grade 4 learners will practice skills such as identifying safe and unsafe behaviours within the context of personal lifestyle e.g. smoking, crossing the road in a safe way, as well as behaviours that are healthy or unhealthy for the environment.


Reading the press release issued by the DBE, the reality is that our kids will be learning about sex from age 9, and hopefully in an age-appropriate manner. I do believe though that by the time your child hits grade 4 you as the parent would have already broached the topic about sex with your child, because they would have asked you “How are babies made?” or “Where do babies come from?” and if you have dogs, yes you know it happens, they may see them humping and will/may ask “What are they doing?“. If we’re honest, the header to the story was to bait us into reading the article. Whether it’s true or not, on whether our kids will be learning about masturbation so early, the reality is that they probably would have been exposed to it in some form or the other by Grade 4. I’d rather that our son knows about it and asks questions, is learning from it and is empowering himself. Honestly, it will come down to how the lesson will be delivered to the students, and the teacher needs to make the kids feel comfortable enough to ask questions without fear of being judged or harassed by parents who don’t see the benefit. 

Sex Education + Grade 4

“…an important conversation to be had was the definition of a nuclear family…” – Lee-Anne Walker


The article goes on to state that with each grade, from Grade 4 upwards, new topics will be touched on. How unfortunate that the matters related to the LGBTIQ+ community is allegedly limited, being mentioned twice only in the series of books. In these two mentions does it teach about LGBT families, thus allowing for children from these backgrounds to see themselves included in what they are learning? Or does it assist our kids to grow up knowing that there’s nothing unusual about being from the LGBT community? Would this not go a long way in addressing anti-LGBT bullying, that remains prevalent in our communities today?

As the DBE is updating the Life Orientation books, to make it a more “cutting edge curriculum“, it’s perfect timing to include more information about the diversity of our society today and include more on the LGBTIQ+ community. This will assist more of our youth, regardless of sexuality to make better decisions, have healthier relationships and feel proud of their identity.

Sex Education + Grade 4

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