Belize pulls HFLE curriculum from schools

CHRISTIAN NEWS: SOURCE. Education and the HFLE curriculum. 14 September 2012 by Adele Ramos. Amandala, BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 13, 2012. In light of public concerns that the Education Today for a Healthy Tomorrow: Teacher’s Guide: Lessons for the HFLE curriculum, which has been distributed among the nation’s 300 or so primary schools, contains highly inappropriate sexual content for upper division elementary school students, the Ministry of Education announced yesterday, Wednesday, that it has decided to withdraw the teacher’s manual, prepared by four US Peace Corps authors and published back in 2010.

HFLE curriculumThe writers of the manual thanked the HFLE Unit of the Ministry of Education for providing valuable feedback on the 147-page publication—indicating that they wrote the manual in consultation with the government ministry.

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, David Leacock, told Amandala today, Thursday, that the committee appointed to review the manual in February/March this year has so far not been able to meet, and the Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, and his senior management team, all agreed that it should be withdrawn until they are able to undertake a proper review and possible revision or replacement.

The Ministry still intends to undertake a review of the manual, which Leacock said has some sensitive materials that are not age-appropriate for the classes for which the manual was written.

In perusing the manual ourselves, we found the following: It speaks to pre-teens in graphic language promoting sexual indulgence, saying, for example that, “Genitals are sources of erotic pleasure and masturbation is a risk-free way of expressing and experiencing one’s sexuality.”

The Peace Corps manual also includes the anus as an “opening” in the female genitalia and rates anal sex with a condom alongside vaginal sex with a condom as “low-risk.”

The manual also suggests that children can make decisions based on their individual value system—notwithstanding what moral or spiritual values their parents or community hold.

So what about Belizean values, and treating certain subjects as taboo for children until they get to a certain age and level of maturity? Some persons reviewing the manual are of the view that the contents are a clear attempt to change the entire value system of Belizean youth, implanting in their minds an alternative and promiscuous sexual lifestyle in which they run very little risk of getting sick with HIV/AIDS, as long as they use a condom.

The manual includes a condom toss icebreaker, in an attempt to counter any inhibition a child may have about touching a condom. In the game, the condom becomes a fun balloon.

A deeper perusal of the manual will reveal the scope of its deviation from traditional Belizean mores. We’ve uploaded a copy on our website at http://amandala.com.bz/news/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/HFLEManual_HIVCommittee__2010_1.pdf

The controversy over the manual has been dormant until now. Amandala was this week contacted by the Belize Action group, which had expressed concerns back in 2011 over the manual’s content, and this resurrection of the issue is, according to Leacock, part of the reason why the Ministry announced its decision to pull the manual from schools.

Belize Action told us that seven months ago, Government promised a review of the Peace Corps manual, but a new school year had begun and the manual was still in commission in schools.

Belize Action/Plus TV notes that based on a review of the manual, it is apparent that “a substantial portion of the Guide (almost 50%) is geared towards the normalizing of homosexuality by progressively steering the student towards seeing the lifestyle as a viable choice.” It introduces games where “couples” can be either opposite or same sex.

Of note is that not only is homosexuality illegal in Belize, but it is also illegal to consent to sex before the age of 16.

Following that correspondence from Belize Action, Amandala wrote Arlette Gomez, Press Officer of the Ministry of Education, on Tuesday, requesting “an update on where the Ministry of Education is in terms of reviewing the Peace Corps Manual that contains lessons on sexuality for primary school children.”

We also asked her to kindly indicate what action the Ministry of Education is taking with regard to the reviewers’ report and the manual itself. The ministry issued a press release the following day, Wednesday, but excluded Amandala from the list of media houses to which it distributed the release.

That press release said, “The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) hereby informs all stakeholders and the general public that a decision has been taken by the Ministry to withdraw the teachers’ manual… in its current form as a resource for teachers in support of teaching aspects of the Health and Family Education Curriculum (HFLE).” (Emphasis ours.)

The HFLE curriculum was published in 2006, and the manual springs from that curriculum.

The reviewing committee should include representation from the Belize Action/Plus TV group spearheaded by Pastor Louis Wade, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Human Development and the stakeholder bodies of the National Council for Education and the National Council for Technical and Vocational Education.

The main task of this committee, said the ministry, was to review the manual to assess its suitability for the objectives/learning outcomes of the HFLE curriculum, the accuracy of its content and the age appropriateness and cultural sensitiveness of specific content. That mandate, Leacock has indicated, still remains.

The committee should, after its review, make recommendations for possible revision and/or replacement of the manual.

However, the HFLE curriculum won’t burn it just yet!

Sources for HFLE curriculum:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Corps

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