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Dinesh Rambally, Legal advisor for Maha Sabha

The question of sex education, in a consultation questionnaire from the Ministry of Education, has once again stirred the ire of denominational Educational Boards.

In a six-page letter issued to the ministry yesterday, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha raised several concerns about the ministry’s approach including conducting a portion of the consultation while the Hindu community was preparing for the Divali

However, the letter focused on questions five and nine which asked parents about the Concordat and the teaching of sexual education respectively.

The Maha Sabha said the inclusion of these questions seems to suggest the ministry’s intent to circumvent the authority of denominational boards, who had previously stated their point of view on the topic.

Legal advisor for the SDMS Dinesh Rambally particularly questioned the inclusion of the query for parents of primary schools students.

“Because in the primary schools, we have always maintained that issues of sex education, sexuality and sexual health is something that the board is of the view because of religious underpinning that that has to be cultivated from the home. This is not the first time this debate is taking place,” he said.

Rambally also noted that the topic had not been listed previously, further raising concerns that it was done without the denominational boards being considered.

The point of view concerning the possible undermining of denominational education groups was shared by other denominational boards yesterday.

Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board Sharon Mangroo said while she had not been in contact with the association of the boards and very many of the boards would share the same opinion.

“Our religion impacts on how we handle health and sex education. How we handle education about the body,” she said.

ASJA’s education board chairman Shamshad Ali said, “the ministry appeared to want to undermine the concordat at any given juncture.

“The position of all the boards are the same. The concordat is there for a reason for each of us to guarantee that our child is taught the tenets of our faith,” said Ali, who like the SDMS questioned the decision to suddenly include the topic.

“For the Government to impose this on us, at least talk to us first,” he said.

The Presbyterian Church also issued a release on the matter, heavily quoting the Concordat in response to the questionnaire, stating the agreements enshrined the in the 1960 agreement must be maintained. They placed focus on section 4 (F) and (H) of the act which states parents or guardians have right to “ provide a school of his own chose for the education of his child or ward” and “freedom of conscience and religious beliefs and observance.”

In response to the SDMS’ letter, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said, “The letter sets forth a view on Sex Education in schools. This is the point of the consultation – to get views. All views are welcome.”