Original Research

Investigating sexuality education in South African schools: A matter of space, place and culture

Eben Swanepoel, Christa Beyers
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 15, No 1 | a612 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v15i1.612 | © 2019 Eben Swanepoel, Christa Beyers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 September 2018 | Published: 23 May 2019

About the author(s)

Eben Swanepoel, School of Education Studies, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Christa Beyers, School of Education Studies, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Sexuality education has faced various challenges in being successfully implemented within secondary schools in South Africa. Research points towards barriers thereto, which include teacher bias and limited knowledge as core mediators to socially-just education. Research in the subject of Life Orientation, specifically the theme of sexuality education, has largely focused on teacher responses and challenges within the teaching of sexuality. Scant research, however, exists on how schools as a systemic whole manifest and sustain sexuality education. This research article is guided by the primary question: how do schools, from a systemic level, mediate sexuality education in relation to space, place and culture? As such, the research reported in this article encompasses a systemic approach to understand how sexuality education is maintained within schools. Through purposive sampling, 12 participants from 6 schools in the Free State province were chosen to take part in semi-structured interviews. The sample of participants comprised Life Orientation teachers and school principals and co-managerial staff. Through the framework of cybernetics, it was found that schools face different challenges in relation to their geographical place, as well as the space within which they reside socio-economically. Core themes that emerged from the data include curriculum boundaries and teacher knowledge. We further found that culture influences how sexuality education manifests within a specific context.


Cybernetics; sexuality education; spaces; place; social justice.


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