Adolescents as Stakeholders in Sex Education


Historically, there has been very little engagement with adolescents with regards to what they want and need from sex education programmes. Content provided tends to have a medical or moralistic focus – condoms or abstinence. Neither of these two methodologies are adequate for developing a healthy attitude towards sex or a broader sense of sexual citizenship.


The Sexy Smarts programme was developed in response to anonymous questions asked by learners, and covers all the topics covered in current comprehensive sex education guidelines[i]. Over the course of over 15 years, more than 12 000 questions have been received. These questions show the following:

  • Gaps in learner’s knowledge and their sexual insecurities
  • Topics usually taboo or ignored in sexual health education e.g. masturbation, sexual feelings (response), homosexuality, sexual abuse and questions about sexual activity
  • Inadequacies of sex education in schools and home environments


We continue to encourage learners to ask anonymous questions about sex and sexuality to ensure that the learners have answers to questions they may not be able to ask elsewhere.

[i] It’s All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education


Sr. Ruth gives guest lecture at School of Public Health (University of Pretoria). (Photo credit: Prof Elna McIntosh).