Fiji Teachers, Parents Critical Of Sex Education Curriculum

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Minister orders investigation into claims of use of explicit terms

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 3, 2016) – The Fiji Teachers Union is calling on the Ministry of Education to immediately remove sex education material in text books for Years 7 and 8 students.

The FTU has also called for a review to be done on a subject titled Healthy Living where children as young as 11 are taught about sex and sexually transmitted diseases with sexually explicit terms and illustrations.

Teachers have said since the subject was introduced last year, there had been a marked change in the behaviour of students of the opposite sex towards each other.

The FTU has called on the Ministry of Education to return to review processes conducted in the past where subject material were put through rigorous scrutiny and tests prior to being taught to students.

[PIR editor’s note: On March 3, 2016 Fiji Times reported that ‘The Methodist Church in Fiji says any type of sex education taught in schools should be conveyed from a moral perspective.’ Fiji Times also reported that ‘Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy has ordered an investigation into claims by concerned parents that inappropriate information was being shared in the Year 7 and Year 8 Healthy Living tutorials.’]

General secretary Agni Deo Singh said the union had raised the issue with the ministry last year and was very disappointed to see the subject still being taught without being reviewed or amended.

"We had received numerous complaints from parents and serious concerns were raised by teachers tasked with teaching this sexually explicit material," he said.

"We had tried to impress on the ministry that our Fijian culture is very different from western culture and we need to be sensitive about the manner in which we approach this subject matter.

"The terms being used are too sexually explicit to expose to children at such a tender age.

"We hope that someone in the ministry will attend to this with urgency because it is a very serious matter concerning a very sensitive subject."

Prominent psychotherapist and Veiuto Primary School board chairperson Senia Kuruleca said she was appalled that the subject continued to be taught despite objections raised about its inappropriate sexually explicit content.

"We did raise this issue of the content of the Healthy Living text and we were asked to make recommendations which we did and handed in to the ministry in March last year," she said.

"We have not heard back from the ministry since then."

A concerned Lautoka grandparent contacted this newspaper after his grandson complained about what was being taught to Year 8 students at a prominent primary school.

"My grandson was very upset because he said someone from the Education Ministry taught a lesson in Healthy Living where he said it was OK to have boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and it was okay to have sleepovers at each other's homes," said man said.

"This goes totally against what we teach at home when we have our evening devotion and my grandson was very upset about the inappropriate teaching being done in school."

Minister for Education Dr Mahendra Reddy said when the issue was raised with the ministry last year, the Year 7 and Year 8 Healthy Living books were revised to remove the contents deemed inappropriate.

"The revised books were printed in December last year, and since January, 2016 (this year), these revised books are been distributed to schools around Fiji to replace the old controversial texts," he said.

"Teachers have been told to use these new texts.

"In addition to this we have also uploaded the revised texts on the MOE website and have circulated it via flash drives and CDs to our schools around Fiji."

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