A question in a Grade 10 Focus Life Orientation textbook, which caused an uproar because of the way it sketched a rape scenario, will be removed from future editions of the book.
Yonela Pasela Moopelwa, from Cape Town, posted the story on Facebook last month, appalled at the question, which described a girl named Angie who lied to her parents about where she was going for the evening. She told them she was going to a friend’s house to study but went to a party instead, and said she lied to them because she knew they wouldn’t allow her to go to the party.
At the party, she said she and her friends became drunk and they later forced her into a room with a guy she did not know, who then raped her. She further said: “I can’t even report it because then my parents will know I lied to them. What can I do? I am so hurt, and now I am scared of getting pregnant or getting HIV or another STI. I wish that I never went to that party.”
The textbook then asks pupils to, “List two ways in which Angie’s behaviour led to sexual intercourse.”
In Ms Moopelwa’s Facebook post, she said that the activity in the textbook teaches children to justify rape, and questioned how this could be allowed in a country which already has a high number of rapes.
Elijah Mhlanga, the Department of Basic Education’s spokesperson, agreed that the question was problematic.
“This question raises very serious misconceptions and stereotypes about rape and the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, (insinuating) that the victim might have played a role that led her to be raped. The department is fully aware of implications such scenarios have on the psyche of our children and the general public about the scourge of rape that the country is battling with. Furthermore, the question refers to the incident as ‘intercourse’ which may further confuse learners. The importance of mediation by teachers in this instance becomes important as should be the case in a classroom environment,” said Mr Mhlanga.
He said the textbook had been published and distributed in 2011 and was part of content that Education Minister Angie Motshekga had asked to be tested for inappropriate or contradictory content.
“We cannot, at this stage, blame the subject specialists that evaluated the material. We can, however, remedy the situation, as we have done in the past with other material that was later found to have inappropriate content such as a picture or misleading text,” he said.
Mr Mhlanga said the department would advise its teachers to exclude the material when teaching and that future editions would not have that material.
“The department welcomes input made by parents, the public, civic organisations and other interested parties into what learners are taught and exposed to in their learning material, this is truly reflective of the societal importance and significance of education. We also encourage active, consistent critique of all teaching and learning material of all grades and subjects. It is through these engagements and contributions that we can achieve the best quality of content for the millions of children whose education we are we are entrusted with,” Mr Mhlanga said.
Nazma Hendricks, operations manager at Rape Crises in Athlone, said the question the textbook asks perpetuates the myth that rape can be the victim’s fault.
“If you look at the way the question is posed, it perpetuates the myth about rape culture, that being drunk, or the clothes you wear can lead to rape. It also talks about sexual intercourse and not rape. Rape is not being acknowledged. The scenario makes survivors feel that they are to blame,” said Ms Hendricks.
Fatima Davids, a life orientation teacher at Al-Azhar High School in Athlone, said that the scenario should be removed from the textbook.
“We are trying to teach our young girls and boys not to place themselves in a vulnerable position, and that they should tell someone about where they are going. Perhaps that is what the textbook meant,” said Ms Davids.
Evonne Jantjies, life orientation subject head at Mountview High School, said: “The pupils have mixed reactions. Some say that it was her fault, and some don’t.
“I don’t think it offends anyone, but in the case of rape victims the story should be made more sensitive.”