Petition started against the Department of Education’s draft unisex toilet guidelines; plan slammed by NFP

A male and female toilet sign.

A male and female toilet sign. Picture: Pexels

Published Nov 15, 2022

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Durban - The National Freedom Party (NFP) has condemned the Department of Basic Education’s proposal to introduce unisex toilets.

According to reports, the proposal is contained in concept guidelines which also includes the abolishment of gender-specific pronouns and adapting the curriculum.

The NFP believes that Minister Angie Motshekga needs to focus on improving the poor educational outcomes at schools and invest in eradicating pit latrines, rather than introducing unisex toilets, which is currently not a priority.

NFP leader in Parliament, Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, said in a statement on Monday, that the department had failed to meet its own basic standards in delivering quality education to all South Africans.

Shail Emam said many children were still using pit latrines, there was poor infrastructure in schools, and four out of every 10 children who started grade1 did not finish grade 12.

“Instead of focusing on these issues, the Department wants to tackle obscure issues. The Minister has a skewed set of priorities,” he said.

The party called on Motshekga to focus on issues of critical importance, such as improving the quality of education, providing more infrastructure at schools for sports, and adequately preparing learners for tertiary education.

“We currently have 60% of students who start TVET colleges dropping out in their first year. One of the main reasons is the poor education offered in primary and secondary school,” he said.

Shaik Emam said the NFP respected every individuals right to choose their lifestyle.

However, he said, the introduction of unisex toilets fails to grasp the seriousness of teenage pregnancies at schools. He said the suggestion is tone deaf to the reality of teenage hormones and the hyper-sexualised era in which we live.

“The latest adolescent pregnancy data from Statistics SA shows that 90 037 girls aged 10 to 19 gave birth from March 2021 to April 2022. Unisex toilets provide just another venue for teenagers to engage in sexual activity. The Minister has said she is attending to the problem of teenage pregnancies, yet she is making it worse with her outlandish suggestions,” said Shaik Emam.

He warned that time may be taken from teaching as teachers would have to monitor the toilets.

Shaik Emam said our society was grappling with the issue of gender-based violence

“We live in a dysfunctional society where children are molested and harassed on a daily basis. We need to be working to eradicate that, rather than introducing more avenues where this type of abuse can take place,” he said.

Meanwhile, a petition titled, ‘No to unisex bathroom for schools in South Africa,’ was started on Change.org. By noon on Tuesday, it had received just over 40 000 signatures.

“South Africans have come out in full support of this petition. We respect everyone but we say that each to his own and if there is a need for transgender toilets then have additional toilets built. But you will not endanger the lives of our children, their safety is your and our responsibility and if you are not equipped to ensure their safety we will take it further and call for your dismissal,” said a comment on the petition page today.

Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said in a report in The Mercury’s sister publication, the Weekend Argus, that the draft guidelines were developed by the department earlier this year as part of a process to discuss measures that should be put in place to create a (safe) environment for learners of a different sexual orientation.

“(This is) so that they don't drop out of school because they feel unwanted… that's one of the challenges that we're facing as a sector. We are far from finalising this; we still need to consult stakeholders. (The guidelines) will be published for consultation in 2023 so that the public can engage on this matter,” he said.

THE MERCURY