Sex clause stalls passage of Education Bill

BY VENERANDA LANGA

A CLAUSE on sex education has stalled the passage of the Education Amendment Bill after senators expressed discomfort over teaching of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) matters at schools.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday told NewsDay that she hoped President Emmerson Mnangagwa would assent to it soon despite concerns raised by legislators.

Among other issues, the Bill seeks to make it mandatory for parents to enrol their children for primary education and that children be enrolled at schools closer to their homes, as well as non-discrimination of children on the grounds of colour, religion, political affiliation and others.

She said senators did not like a clause in the Bill which talks about SRH and the use of the word “sex”.

“Senators were saying they do not have a problem with SRH rights, but they have a problem with sex education for children because they thought it will encourage children to indulge in sex,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

“But SRH is basically issues to do with the sex organs and not necessarily the act, and their argument was that the word ‘sex’ should be removed from the Bill.”

The Constitution provides that when there is a disagreement between the National Assembly and Senate, a 90-day waiting period must elapse, and on expiry of the deadline, the Bill is then taken to the President for assent.

“Unfortunately, the Constitution does not say what should happen in those 90 days, but you take the Bill with a certificate to explain to the President that there is an issue (of the) Senate refusing a particular position, (while) the National Assembly proceeded,” the legislator said.

“The President will then make a decision whether to assent to it after the expiry of the 90 days. Now the Bill is before the President for assent after the 90 days expired on December 4.”

Misihairabwi-Mushonga was hopeful that Mnangagwa would not have a problem with the issue of children learning about SRH matters.

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