Department sparks controversy with ‘Toolkit’

Truro House the Department of Education head office in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO

Truro House the Department of Education head office in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO

Published Apr 3, 2024


Durban — Various religious, spiritual, cultural, educational, and traditional associations have formed a coalition and scrutinised the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) implementation of the Gender-Responsive Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education (GRP4ECE), also known as the ECE toolkit.

The toolkit aims to train pre-primary and primary educators to promote transgender ideology and gender diversity among children aged 0 to 9 years.

The associations argue that it goes against religious and traditional beliefs and by implementing the toolkit, it undermines gender roles – particularly women – who are the primary victims of gender-based violence and discrimination.

The coalition emphasises the importance of parental rights to raise children according to their cultural, spiritual, religious, and traditional beliefs, as recognised by South African and international law.

They assert that the ECE toolkit approach could potentially divide children from their parents and damage the family unit, which is fundamental to South African society.

Spokesperson South African Community of Faith-based Fraternals and Federations (SACOFF) Jan Pretorius said, “The DBE rolled out this toolkit with a pilot in KZN. They have been busy with this since 2021. Our concern is that it has gone over the heads of parents and hasn’t consulted stakeholders. It is a problem to teach young pupils – especially with regard to ideologies of transgender. We met on 5 December; we had a response meeting in March where they dismissed our grievances and they will go on ahead.”

General secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (Teasa) Rev’d Moss Ntlha said, “The issue is that the DBE is being ideological about gender-fluidity issues – specifically gender and values of sexuality. This runs in the face of cherished values by religious communities and families across the country.”

The coalition has proposed the formation of a Family Values Unit within the DBE to ensure that educational solutions are rooted in the South African context and not driven by foreign ideologies.

However, the DBE rejected this proposal, citing the principle of the separation of church and state, and instead established a Directorate: Social Cohesion and Equity in Education.

This initiative has raised ideological concerns, with critics arguing that it imposes a singular ideology that undermines traditional views held by many parents and communities.

The coalition represents more than 20 million members.

As part of the Department’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Flemish Association for Development Co-operation and Technical Assistance VVOB – Education for Development, the DBE is receiving technical assistance to contextualise the toolkit to guide the implementation of a gender-responsive pedagogy in early childhood.

The toolkit was developed by the DBE in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch and funded by a R40 million grant from VVOB, a Belgian-based organisation.

WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.

Daily News