Response to Letter from Kader Asmal on National Curriculum Statement: 3 December 2001

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Response to letter dated 3 December 2001, from Prof Kader Asmal, Minister of Education, on National Curriculum Statement

Dear Prof. Kader Asmal

Thankyou for taking the time to write a detailed reply to our memorandum. We were however disappointed that you appear to have misunderstood our concerns and misrepresented our position. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to clarify our concerns.

As regards awareness of the various Acts and policies
Your letter seems to suggest that we are unaware of the South African Schools Act (1996) which states under Freedom of conscience and religion at public schools:

7. Subject to the Constitution and any applicable provincial law, religious observances may be conducted at a public school under rules issued by the governing body if such observances are conducted on an equitable basis and attendance at them by learners and members of staff is free and voluntary.

We understand that this clause empowers the local school governing body to protect the freedom of conscience and religion at their school. We maintain that parents, through the school governing bodies, should have the right to choose the religious ethos of their schools and choose, in a free society, the kind of school they want to send their child to (one in keeping with their values and religion). We agree that children and teachers should also be allowed to exercise their freedom of conscience by abstaining from such classes. This of course would include from the new proposed Religion Education, sex education or any subject pertaining directly to the well-being of the child and the family.

Another interesting clause is:

57. If the owner of the private property referred to in section 56 is a religious organisation, such owner may require that the agreement contemplated in section 14 must recognise, in an appropriate manner consistent with this Act, the distinctive religious character of the school.

This would imply that the religious character of private schools / property be recognised and therefore protected from state imposed outcomes. It would therefore appear that the NCS oversteps these rights and laws.

Furthermore, the NCS violates provincial legislation, for example, Western Cape Provincial Legislation protects the rights of parents to choose the type of education for their children (this would include one that is in keeping with their religious convictions).

This grants parents the power to choose. We as Christians are eager to tolerate other beliefs, identities and faiths. Freedom of religion and conscience was a Christian innovation - a fruit of the Reformation, that is why Christian nations have always allowed the greatest freedoms. We appeal to the Department of Education to be equally tolerant and respectful of individuality.

"The envisaged qualification for the GETC is a whole school qualification with the DoE as a representative standards generating body for public schooling. These processes will be formalised through negotiation between the DoE and SAQA once the Revised NCS for grade R-9 (schools) has been navigated through Parliament." (Overview p. 8).

It becomes clear that the DoE is seeking to override the standards generating body framework laid out by SAQA and has released the draft version of the NCS before this has even been adequately discussed and negotiated with the parents, teachers and SAQA.

Finally, at constitutional level, the NCS once again seeks for too much control.

Freedom of religion, belief and opinion
15. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
(2) Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions, provided that
a. those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities;
b. they are conducted on an equitable basis; and
c. attendance at them is free and voluntary.

Cultural, religious and linguistic communities
31. (1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community
a. to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language; and
b. to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.
(2) The rights in subsection (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

Children
(2) A child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

Once again it is clear that communities (including parents and their children) have the constitutional right to practice their religion and that these may be done at state-aided institutions.

We have to disagree with your and the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie's point that "the distinction between the theoretical study of religion and the extent to which religion is practiced or observed at a school." Considering, what you say "I would find it epistemologically impossible to separate values from knowledge and skills requirements of the curriculum", then there is an obvious contradiction or double standard. How can a child learn about theory, without the values? This is therefore a false distinction. The NCS makes no pretence about the role religion is to play - it is to serve the state and push the values of the constitution. "…(it) offers ways to promote the values of the Constitution through the educational system. They are applicable to all within education, from department officials, politicians and parents to educators, community members, private sector business-people and learners." (The Manifesto of Values, Education and Democracy, p. 8). Unfortunately, many people do not agree with the values of the constitution (including the legalisation of pornography, prostitution and abortion, and the promotion of homosexuality, implicit in its provisions) and certainly very few would agree with all the values of the constitution. (Imagine if for example, this manifesto read, "NCS offers ways to promote the values of Christianity through the educational system. They are applicable to all within education, from department…" then you will realise just how intolerant such a position is. The Christian position of course respects and allows for religious freedom, which would include values in a free market place of ideas).

This version of Religion Education denies the uniqueness of each religion. We respect the uniqueness of each, we call on the DoE to do likewise.

May I point out, that in all our dealings with our large constituency, we have yet to meet a single Christian who does not wish to learn about other religions. To suggest therefore that we are bigoted and not interested in learning about other religions is ill informed and a blatant misrepresentation.

The general consensus is based on well considered reasoning. This is a cognitive argument. We believe that it would be confusing for a child to learn about different religions at a young age. Not yet having developed the cognitive abilities to make the distinctions could prove unsettling for the child. This could lead to insecurity and is therefore not in the child's best interest. Furthermore, what the child learns in the classroom could conflict with what is taught in the home. This would set the child against the parent and the school against the home. Why would the DoE want to sow strife in the home?

Instead, we believe that children should learn about other faiths (comparative religions) from about grade 8 onwards when they may have the intellectual maturity to deal with them. Any undermining of the religious convictions of a family or community would be very destructive to society as a whole as religious convictions provide the most solid foundations for morality, charity and work ethics.

The teaching of evolution, situation ethics, 'alternative lifestyles' and other doctrines of humanism would, by way of contrast, undermine morality, charity and the work ethic.

If we have the Religion Education, that your department is suggesting, one that tends to point out the 'similarities' (of course to re-enforce and serve the state and "the values of the constitution") then such a "theoretical study" would be incomplete, shallow and superficial and would deny the individuality of each faith and the uniqueness of each.

Furthermore, in all our dealings with schools, parents and our large constituency, we are yet to meet a parent (or child) who felt excluded from the school because of the school's religious ethos. This is because, upon entry, the parent and the child are aware of the religious ethos of that particular school and still choose (of their own free will) to attend. The current system of allowing the School Governing Body the right to:

1. Select a religious ethos in keeping with the desire of the parents (community), Or
2. Choose to have multi-faith religious instruction, Or
3. Choose to have no religious instruction
has proved very successful. Why the need for a "one size fits all" Religion Education? To us, who support, encourage and endorse religious freedom and freedom of conscience, this new Religion Education seems very foreign.

As regards Religion Education as nation-building
To suggest that the purpose of these constitutional values through religion is nation-building, is unfortunately a misguided romantic notion. To build a strong nation one must have strong families. The family (not the individual and not the state nor even the church) is the basic building block of society. Therefore, for the DoE to indoctrinate the child into the religion and values of the state (and not the family) is to override the institution of the family. This is a top-heavy structure, which as history will confirm, is destined for disaster. Please do not set the values of the state against that of the parents. Why bring unnecessary conflict into the home? We believe more sensitivity is required on the part of the DoE.

All educational research will confirm that children whose parents are involved in their education do better in school, are more likely to study further (and do better in life in general). You talk of nation-building, but deny mothers and fathers the right to have a say in their own child's public education. To involve mothers and fathers, their values, religion (and beliefs about moral issues such as sexuality), would serve to strengthen and increase the influence of the home and family. We believe that national policy should be family-friendly. Therefore, the parent's values and religion should over-ride the NCS proposed "one-size-fits-all" Religion Education.

In terms of nation-building, Christianity does produce wonderful results. The most free, prosperous and tolerant nations on earth are Christian nations. Christianity has produced the Protestant work ethic; the rule of law; separation of powers; constitutionally limited governments; law abiding citizens (decreasing national corruption); introduced notions like equality before the law; produced men and women who are faithful in marriage, which leads to strong families (the building block of any nation); Christianity has produced people of compassion which greatly benefits welfare, etc. We are quite sure, Christian schools with a clear understanding of the Christian faith and values will produce hard working and honest South African citizens that will build this nation.

"He knows not how to rule a Kingdom, that cannot manage a Province; nor can he wield a Province, that cannot order a City; nor he order a City, that knows not how to regulate a Village, nor he a Village, that cannot guide a Family, nor can that man govern well a Family that knows not how to govern himself, neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, and his will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God and wholly be obedient to Him." Hugo Grotius

As regards the banning of prayer and devotions in assembly
You suggest that prayer, devotions and Scripture readings will not be banned at assemblies as the NCS lacks the power to do this. However, you have made it quite clear that there will be an Oath of Allegiance and schools are not to be sites for religious observance. Could you please clarify? If I understand this paragraph, we can go ahead and tell our large constituency that Prof Kader Asmal himself has officially assured in writing that prayer, Bible reading and devotions can continue to take place in assemblies (obviously all of us agree that people have the power to exercise freedom of conscience and religion). Can we add to this list, that "professional clergy" can be invited access to schools during school hours and that singing of hymns can also take place during assemblies (at the discretion of the Headmaster and School Board provided freedom of conscience be exercised)? Once you clarify these points we will then inform our large constituency.

"The values that underpin our curriculum, as well as the outcomes based type of curriculum we have developed, are a check against the imposition of any one religion, faith or worldview on another." Unfortunately, you seem to have missed the entire point of our memorandum. If you will not allow any religion to be enforced over anther (even if the school governing body should so wish), what will be enforced in its place? Secular humanism with multi-faith religion education seems to be the official state religion that will now be enforced in public schools. This is equally religious and thoroughly intolerant. Your secular multi-faith, that "promotes the values of the constitution" is apparently to be enforced on all learners to the detriment of all other beliefs.

As regards Sex Education
We have to disagree that our fears and allegations at the Ministerial Conference proved baseless. Mr Mc Cafferty produced hard copies of the HIV/AIDS Learning Programmes currently being implemented in our schools. These have in fact been endorsed by the DoE and the Department of Health. They contain sexually explicit material, such as:
"ACTIVITY FOR BOYS. Divide the boys into groups of four and ask them to compile a booklet for boys on erections and wet dreams…A competition could be held and the best booklets distributed among the boys and the girls." (LIFE SKILLS AND HIV/AIDS EDUCATION teacher's manual; GRADE SEVEN; PRIMARY SCHOOL PROGRAMME, Grade 7, p 26, pt 5)

And deceitful material (which involves redefinition of the English language) such as "abstinence" being defined as:

"Teacher's note: Abstinence: postponing sexual activity till older, being responsible by using a condom when engaging in any sexual activity." (LIFE SKILLS AND HIV/AIDS EDUCATION teacher's manual; GRADE SEVEN; PRIMARY SCHOOL PROGRAMME, Grade 7, p 26, pt 5)

Are you aware that Planned Parenthood of South Africa (PPASA), which as an organization, has links back to Nazi Germany (esp. as regards their eugenics programmes), won the tender to train teachers to teach sex education in schools under the guise of "HIV/AIDS and Lifeskills" courses. PPASA also operates in SA under the guise of the "Lovelife" programme. Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, believed that birth control would eliminate what she called "human weeds" and "genetically inferior races" (Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization, New York: Brentanos, 1922, p 264).

She aimed, in her own words, to exterminate the Negro population. In line with this vision, a large part of PP's funds and efforts go toward aborting unborn children in developing countries. Planned Parenthood is far from neutral they lobbied for the legalisation of abortion in South Africa and also lobbied in Parliament for lesbians to access donor sperm and in-vitro fertilisation. (Of course they have a financial interest in all this - they are the world's largest abortion providers).

While we do not disagree that our society lacks sexual integrity, and is facing a serious sexual revolution and crisis, you mention how sexually explicit sex education programmes will not encourage sexual activity, as this has been exposed as a "myth" in many "international contexts". However, you fail to mention one reliable study to confirm this propaganda, while at the same time you omit the many studies that confirm a clear link between sexually explicit sex education and increased promiscuity, teenage pregnancies and abortions. Are you aware that Planned Parenthood's own studies have shown that their sex education programmes have shown an increase in sexual activity? Furthermore other international studies have confirmed the same thing, for example: "Since the federal government (USA) began its major contraceptive program in 1970, unwed pregnancies have increased 87 percent among fifteen-to-nineteen-year olds. Likewise, abortions among teens rose 67 percent; unwed births went up 61 percent." (Dr James Dobson, 1992). Results like these are not only destroyed lives, but broken families and a tremendous expense to the tax payer - statistics our country desperately needs to avoid and reverse.

In fact even the very limited South African studies, have confirmed this truth (Saamtrek Conference).

Once again, the Christian community has been misunderstood, slandered and misrepresented on this point. In all our dealings with our very large constituency, we are yet to meet a parent who is opposed to sex education per say, however they are opposed to public officials sexualizing their children in a way inconsistent with their religious, ethical and cultural convictions. As you yourself are on record as saying that sex education will be mandatory from grade R as of 2002.

While no-one is denying that our country is so sick as to have baby rapes, to therefore have sex education in the classroom taught by teachers (many of whom are guilty of sexually abusing children themselves e.g. Eastern Cape and many of these teachers are HIV positive - interestingly this has led to an increase in parental choice of homeschooling) because of these crimes, is failing to deal with the criminals directly. Furthermore, why should every child be exposed to sex education from grade R because of adult crimes? Children who have suffered from sexual abuse should be treated with special care and receive counseling. Why should their "counseling" become mandatory for all? Should we at least not try and protect children's innocence? The legalisation and proliferation of pornography has fueled this escalation of rape (400% increase of child sexual abuse since the legalisation of pornography - see Child Protection Unit statistics).

The most appropriate venues for responsible sex education is in the home or church.

The other consensus in our large constituency, in case you are not aware, is that parents want to tell their child about sex when they feel it is right for their child (i.e. truly child-centered, and not just blanket state policy that is unable to differentiate between the different needs and maturity of children). A national policy, which is unable to make individual distinctions, cannot compete with the love, care and concern of parents. Of course telling the child about sex from grade R, not only compromises the child's innocence, but robs the parents of their responsibility and duty to educate their children on such matters and forces them to compromise the time and stage in their child's development when they would prefer to tell their child about sex merely to counteract the sexually explicit nature of state mandatory sex education.

For example, sodomy (anal sex) is given as an alternative, yet never is there a mention made of the dangers associated with sodomy (e.g. are you aware that in San Francisco, typhoid has now been declared an STD for the first time. Typhoid is traditionally associated with fesses contamination of water). The nature of the sex education is therefore biased, superficial (in places), immoral, incomplete (in places) and sexually explicit.

If, your argument holds water that not telling the children about sex would only increase sex, then please explain how three generations ago, the population was no-where near as promiscuous as they are today? If your assumption were true, then our grannies would have been very promiscuous. Clearly, such assumptions cannot account for this.

We would like clarity on a specific point as some senior personnel in the DoE have given us the go ahead, but still we seek official clarity in writing. Is it possible for school governing bodies to select sex education learning programmes for the sex education outcomes (Life Orientation) that are in keeping with the values and belief of the parents? For example: True Love Waits or Scripture Union. Once this is clarified, we can re-assure our large constituency as this is often a point of conflict.

As regards the "bogus addresses"
While we heard that 10,000 letters were submitted to the DoE raising concerns about the sex education, we reject the implication that we were responsible for "fraudulent" letters. Please can you provide evidence, that firstly, they were fraudulent and secondly that UCA was in any way responsible.

The fact that you say 600 returned, is only 6% and that means that 94% were legitimate. Furthermore, of these 6% there is no evidence to prove that these were fraudulent as they could also have been returned because of incompetence in the postal service, typing errors (addresses) on the part of the sender or on the part of your administrative staff.

Of course, it should also be acknowledged by your department that a letter is equivalent to a thousand signatures. Many parents are busy people, yet these 10,000 people have taken the time to write to you and your department out of their concern. "9400" is a large number of concerned parents.

As regards the market approach to education
On a point of clarity, Christians have always been concerned for the "poor and the weak". It was Christians that first introduced the idea of education for the poor and public instead of it being an exception reserved for the elite. In South Africa, the apartheid government closed down 5,500 church schools (private education) and replaced these with state Bantu education. Sadly these schools were far inferior to the education that church schools had provided. Interestingly, many of the senior leadership of the ANC benefited from Church school education, including our former president Nelson Mandela.

What we are advocating is for the avoidance of monopolies (which tend to lean towards inferior service delivery, lower standards, corruption and tyranny). In this case it happens to be the state that wants complete control of the education sector (let us be clear that we would oppose monopolies of education wherever they occur). We believe in a decentralized model, with parental involvement. This will ensure maximum accountability, highest possible standards and protection against tyranny. Of course it would imply that the DoE would have to forfeit some of their control and excessive power, but any government committed to local governance and democracy would encourage just that.

We therefore, appeal to you to allow private, homeschool, and religious schools freedom from state imposed outcomes and to respect the convictions and choices of parents, teachers and school governing bodies.

As regards the assessment of values
Once again we would like to clarify our position as you have apparently misunderstood us. "Your concern about the testing and evaluation of children's values rests on an assumption that values do not pervade all forms of education, knowledge and skills, and leads to a conclusion that values should therefore not be assessed". The truth is we do recognize that all education is religious, and have consistently said as much. Therefore all education carries an ideology and set of values. There can be no neutrality in education. It therefore becomes increasingly dangerous when any one party seeks to have complete control of the education sphere (in this case that party happens to be the DoE). It would therefore be wiser to support 'academic pluralism' which respects the multiple religions and ideologies. This would allow for debate in a free market place of ideas, and protect against indoctrination. This would lead to a more open, democratic and intelligent society. Any government committed to democracy would support such a system.

It is therefore essential that private, homeschool and religious schools be protected from state imposed outcomes.

But as regards the evaluation of values, as a category of assessment, in state schools is another matter. Assessing of values implies a right and a wrong. Since when does any government or any Department of Education have the mandate to dictate the rightness and wrongness of children's values? This is social engineering, and any DoE personnel should be ashamed of such an attempt to indoctrinate. As wrong as the apartheid government was, not even they went as far as to assess and control peoples values (and for that matter their beliefs and behaviour) in such an explicit manner as to assess their values as a means of grading a child. This is immoral and cannot be tolerated.

Finally, we appeal to you again to respect parents, who are the tax payers. Governments are responsible to the people and ministers should be servants of the people and respectful of their desires. Parents pay taxes and school fees and have every right to expect accountability and transparency with regard to the education of their children. Furthermore, the home and not the state, is the primary place of education and the location for learning values.

Conclusion
In your letter of 3 December 2001, you made mention that we should present "well researched or considered input" and "more serious intellectual engagement", we trust that you will take the time to understand our concerns (and not dismiss them or misrepresent us) and respond to the many concerned parents accordingly.

Thank-you for your time. May God bless and guide you.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Mc Cafferty (M.Ed)
Representative for United Christian Action (now called Christian Action Network)

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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