By: Zanele Msomi
ATLEAST two students in KwaZulu-Natal have been victims of teachers’ mockery and sexual discrimination in separate incidents recently.
The LGBT Community are up in arms about teacher’s behavior in different education institution, leading to intervention of other organisation’s for human rights. Last week two Coastal KZN College lecturers were suspended pending investigation after they were accused of victimising Bheka Khanyile (21), who is a second-year student in the institution. Khanyile who is a gay student living at uMlazi, claims that the lecturers mocked him in the presence of other teachers and students. Khanyile who is currently doing Office Administration, says that since he started attending classes last year, he has never hidden his sexuality.
“I was at the cafeteria with my friends during lunchtime when one of the female lecturers confronted me. She asked me about my braids, telling me I am disgracing myself and my parents. She accused me of being a confused gay who does not know his identity. She even told me that in her class she teaches only ‘normal’ students not homosexuals,” he explains.
Khanyile says that other lecturers were laughing at him while the other one continued to call him names.
“I was so traumatised I didn’t attend any classes after that incident. I went back home and reported to the Student Representative Council,” says Khanyile.
Khanyile who proudly wears make up and skinny clothes suspects that his Braids are the reason why he was mocked since he came with them for the first time at the campus.
Addressing the media about the matter, Coastal KZN College Principal Sibhabhane Ndlovu confirmed that the lectures concerned have been suspended for 30 days while they are being investigated.
“We want to make it clear that as an institution we do not discriminate but we welcome all students regardless of race and sexuality. We condemn the incident and we will do everything in our power to deal with it. Lectures were also given 7 days to appeal if they feel that the decision was unfair. The outcome of the investigation will determine the sentence in this matter,” Ndlovu explains.
This incident took place a week after another student was mocked by her principal at Indala High School in Richmond. Amanda Shelembe (18) a Grade 12 learner, has since returned to school after the intervension from other organisations in the community. Shelembe who is transgender, has spent two weeks at home after her principal chased her out the premises. He family claims that since she started Grade 8 in the same school, she was wearing girls’ uniform. Noxolo Shelembe her elder sister reckons that the former school principal was informed about Amanda’s sexuality and had since been wearing a grey trouser. The accused principal joined the school in 2015 and has never showed any discomfort about Amanda’s situation.
The Department of Education in KZN condemed the incident and asked Amanda’s family to send her back to school with the same uniform he had been wearing. The department says that no student should be discriminated against.
The Human Rights Commission has lodged an official complaint to the school and the department, seeking for investigation on this matter while the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has also condemned the two incidents. Department’s spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga in statement says: “The harassment, victimisation and discrimination of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation cannot be tolerated in a democratic South Africa. All South Africans are urged to respect basic human rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The Department remains committed to fight all forms of sexual and gender based violence and encourages all the victims to report these crimes to police.”
He added that the Department continues to facilitate an open, constructive and informed dialogue on discrimination and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
“Our relationship with civil society organisations in this area continues to grow as we work together as members of the National Task Team established to root out discrimination against LGBTI persons,” says Mhaga.
Sibongiseni Khumalo who is the Project Co-ordinator for Durban Lesbian and Gay Community Centre says that it was about time that they stand for student’s rights.
“We respect policies and schools code of conducts but we won’t allow any individual to disrespect the constitution. A teacher must focus on educating learners and respect their life choices,” concludes Khumalo.