Youth understandings of a sex education programme

Jefthas, Wilna Desiree (2013-12)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.


The problem of youth has been a key issue in South Africa since 1994, with youth seen as needing extra guidance and leadership if they are to bring about the country that many hope for. The interest in youth is also spurred on by recent studies that claim that once adolescents establish certain behavioural patterns that it becomes difficult to modify these patterns. Little research exists that describes the ordinary sociological experiences of youth, especially on sensitive issues that attract a lot of public attention- such as teenage sex and pregnancies, and what is perceived as the ‘slipping of youth morals’. There is great concern that youth are experimenting with sex at too early an age in their social and political development (Frimpong 2010: 27). In my thesis I focus on the thinking, choices and decisions that learners at one high school in Cape Town seem to make with regard to sex and sexuality, and how their choices seem to be influenced by a variety of discourses attached to the provision of a sex education programme at the school; discourses that organise their everyday thinking and actions in very concrete ways. A key goal of the study was to disarticulate and re-articulate the deficit mentality that shapes discourses of sexuality in South Africa, and to develop ‘sexual’ stories and strategies of story-telling that allow the voices of learners to be heard (Pillow 2004). My focus in this study is mainly to explore how the sex education programme reconstitutes youth’s sexual identity. In my qualitative study I challenge the tendency to view youth participation in teen sex using mainly an abstinence-only discourse, and suggest that sex education programmes ‘contaminate’ and ‘mutilate’ youth understandings of sex and sexuality in quite complex ways.

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