Schools Out: Research synthesis report

From 2018-2020, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) worked in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and civil society partners across seven countries in southern Africa to implement the Schools Out project, funded by AmplifyChange.

In Southern Africa, the impact that faith and religion has on societal values and education are undeniable. In this context, implementing holistic, impartial Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is very challenging. 

IAM’s role in the project was to explore the questions, “How does religion and faith impact the implementation (teaching and learning) of CSEat high schools?” and “Are learners referred to appropriate Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services where necessary?” The questions were explored by IAM’s local partners through qualitative research, analysis of the gaps in CSE curriculum around sexuality and sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE)-related content, participatory videos and success stories

Reflection report

As part of the wrap up of the project, IAM worked with consultant Francesca Alice to speak with the partners and bring together their reflections on the experiences of implementing the project. From these conversations came the report, “Reflections on religion, faith and comprehensive sexuality education: Regional reflections on the HSRC Schools Out Project from partners across seven countries.

The findings

The report details the intense, often public opposition that some country teams received, as well as the positive role that religion could have in teaching respect for others’ rights and being non-judgmental. When teachers and school administrators are supported, CSE can provide a platform for educating students about sexual and gender diversity and reducing stigma. Adequate referral networks, especially from schools to providers who are sensitive to SOGIE diverse student’s needs, are scarce and create a barrier to access of SRH services.

What next?

The partners reflected on their learnings from the research and how they plan to use it to inform their future initiatives, including direct support to schools, advocacy for comprehensive CSE curriculum development, or policy reforms at the school level, amongst others. IAM is continuing this work with our partners through new projects, and facilitating opportunities for regional knowledge sharing.

You can access the full report here.