MINISTER of Education Ronald Thwaites said that the homosexual lifestyle would not be promoted in the education system, following the decision to revise the controversial Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum for public schools.
Speaking at a meeting of the Rotary Club of North St Andrew last week, Thwaites emphasised the importance of the HFLE curriculum but said only heterosexual relationships would be promoted in the education system, while expressing tolerance for those who chose alternative lifestyles.
"I wish to make it quite clear that in the rewrite of that particular aspect of it, however it came to be, we are not going to be promoting homosexuality in this country. We're just not going to do it," Thwaites said to applause from the Rotarians.
"We are going to promote healthy heterosexual relationships, but with a tolerance and compassion for those who adopt a different lifestyle. There is a difference between grooming and conditioning, and being tolerant; and that distinction is quite possible for us to craft," he added.
Thwaites ordered the withdrawal and a rewrite of the offending sections of the HLFE manual to be used in grades seven to nine, following outcry from parents and teachers after questions in the manual, deemed inappropriate, were exposed in the media.
Some of the questions focused on whether the children, aged about 11 to 15, had anal sex; whether they ever thought they were gay; knew their HIV status and if they had multiple partners.
Some health educators who spoke with the Jamaica Observer defended the manual saying the questions, though disturbing, were realistic, as some adolescents were having sex from an early age and were indulging in anal sex.
They also said the manual, funded in part by international agencies, had undergone extensive review among teachers and guidance counsellors.
But Thwaites said some of the questions should never have been asked and that only heterosexual lifestyles would be promoted.
"It was totally unacceptable that that material should even have been issued," Thwaites said, noting that it was published before he became minister.
He said he did not blame anyone in particular for its publication, but had to take responsibility for it.
"The important thing is that we balance an appropriate exposure of sexuality and of human relationships to young people, but in an instance where you are not promoting and advancing a particular lifestyle which many consider to be inappropriate," he said.
The minister also thanked a number of churches and concerned groups which placed a full-page advertisement in the Observer on Monday expressing grave concern about the curriculum and supporting his decision to have the offending parts withdrawn and rewritten.
Last week, Thwaites promised to have the offending sections rewritten and back in schools in two months.