Gendering the foundation: teaching sexuality amid sexual danger and gender inequalities

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Bhana, Deevia
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Faculty of Education, University of the Free State
How might Life Skills be conceptualised in the Foundation Phase of schooling when a tradition of feminist literature has revealed the regulation, denial and the silencing of both gender and sexuality in early childhood? This article presents one Grade 2 teacher’s perspective of addressing sexuality education in an impoverished township primary school. Disrupting the tradition of sexual silencing, the teacher indicates that her teaching of sexuality focuses on bad touch and sexual danger, about and against violent masculinities, while promoting respectable and equitable gender relations. The disruption is an effect of the teacher’s recognition of the gendered patterns of boys and girls classroom practice operating amid the broader climate of brutal township poverty, overcrowding, sexual violence and cultural norms that constrain women’s and girls’ agency. Nonetheless, the ability of the teacher to say ‘sex’ and to address cultural norms that tie women and girls into bonds of inequalities suggest limits to transforming gender relations and inequalities through sexuality education in the Foundation Phase without recognition of broader context. As such, it provides warrant for supporting teachers in the Foundation Phase to build on disruptive potentials in Life Skills sexuality education which is gender-focused, interrogative of the personal, locally relevant and disruptive of cultural norms.
Foundation Phase, Life Skills, Sexuality education, Teachers, Sexual innocence, Gender inequalities, Social context
Bhana, D. (2015). Gendering the foundation: teaching sexuality amid sexual danger and gender inequalities. Perspectives in Education: Life Orientation sexuality education in South Africa: gendered norms, justice and transformation, 33(2), 77-89.