fresh controversy is brewing in Kerala as the state government gets set to introduce the Adolescent Education Programme in schools. Religious groups and opposition politicians are still not prepared to accept the programme's handbook despite a revision, alleging it will lead to "sexual anarchy".
"The curriculum committee has approved the revised version of the Unicef handbook prepared by an expert committee. The book will be released in a month," curriculum committee member AK Chandran told IANS.
The state government led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist appointed the committee following opposition from student organisations and minority religious organisations over the alleged "pornographic type" pictures and offensive language in the original version of the Unicef handbook published last year.
The committee, which included psychologists, gynaecologists and other child educational experts, prepared the book omitting "vulgar language" and retaining the essence of the original book, said Chandran, who is also a leader of the pro-CPI-M Kerala School Teachers Association (KSTA).
The project is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Unicef and the National AIDS Control Organisation.
But Inter Church Council spokesman Philip Nelpuraparambil said the church would not accept the handbook if it wasn't backed by moral teaching.
"Sex is a sacred thing. It is not simply biological. It is closely related to society, family and religion. So firstly morality should be taught. Otherwise it will create sexual anarchy in the state," he told IANS.
Strongly rejecting the Church's view, Chandran said: "The book has nothing to do with moral teaching. It is not a pornographic book. It teaches just science - the physical and mental changes taking place in teenagers."
The book would be used in Classes 9 to 12. Women teachers would teach girls and men teachers the boys, Chandran added.
The government would hold talks with representatives of school managements before introducing the book, he said.
PC Vishnunath, former president of the Congress- affiliated Kerala Students Union (KSU), said he had seen the revised version of the book and it was a repetition of the "old controversial book".
Vishnunath, who is also a member of the state legislature, said: "Teaching subjects including 'sexual intercourse' in class is very awkward for everyone."
While emphasising the need for introduction of adolescent education in schools and saying that adolescent education is not sex education, former education minister ET Mohammad Basheer accused the state government of creating "unnecessary controversy" in all matters related to education.
"Our education department is responsible for this mess," he said.
KK Rajesh, general secretary of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the students' wing of the CPI-M, said the Adolescent Education Programme should be immediately introduced in schools in the state.
"Some communal forces are trying to create hindrance in the path of Kerala's social and educational development," said Rajesh.