A controversial schoolbook that tackles sexual development in young students has already uncovered potential cases of abuse since it was introduced last year, according to the authorities.
The Voyage Continues after Childhood hit national headlines last week when a mother uploaded a video to Facebook raising the alarm about its contentious content.
The parent took issue with the book which she said unnecessarily “sexualised” children by exposing them to gratuitous references to explicit behaviour.
In her video, which has since been widely viewed and shared on social media, the concerned mother takes issue with a section of the book which includes “a conversation between a boy and a girl who look about 11 or 12”.
“They discuss how the boy feels when they are near each other, how he feels when she is near him and when she is pressing on him, and the same for her. This is what is being taught in Year 6,” she says.
Other sections in the book ask young students to write down how a child their age would feel if they received a photo of another classmate in their underwear, or if an adult were to walk into the bathroom while they were in the shower.
'Potentially serious issues flagged'
Education officer Stephen Camilleri, who co-authored the workbook, told Times of Malta that these were all realities facing children today.
Like it or not, he said, 11-year-old children were potentially being exposed to issues of a sexual nature.
“Children that age do not live in a vacuum. And in fact since its introduction we have had potentially serious issues flagged thanks to these classes,” he said.
Some students, Dr Camilleri said, had told their teachers that they themselves had experienced some of the ‘problem scenarios’ detailed in the workbook.
Content based on UN and WHO guidelines
Asked how the course and its content were drafted, Dr Camilleri said it was based on United Nations and World Health Organisation guidelines.
It was also “very similar” to classroom content offered in other EU states to students of the same age.
“These books are not something that we come up with out of the blue. The courses start much earlier than Year 6 and we introduce the subjects gradually, in-line with international best practices,” Dr Camilleri said.
He added that the book, which is used in Personal Social Career Development (PSCD) classes, had been co-authored by another education officer and a local expert in sexual health.
Meanwhile the irate parent who had taken exception to the book’s content has also appeared on an online political discussion hosted by fringe political group Alleanza Bidla.
On the program, the mother, as well as another parent, describe the book as “diabolical” and “filth”, insisting that they had wanted their children not to sit for the class but had been refused this by their children’s respective schools.
Asked about this, a spokesman for the Education Ministry said the PSCD course was not optional and was based on the principle of inclusive education.
“Our objective is for students from diverse backgrounds all have a sense of inclusion in the classroom,” the spokesman said.
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