Young pupils at Lwandle Junior School in Khayelitsha learn to put up their right hand up in class. Picture: Sam Clark
Young pupils at Lwandle Junior School in Khayelitsha learn to put up their right hand up in class. Picture: Sam Clark

Teach kids tolerance at home first – here’s why the experts agree with Lasizwe on touchy sexuality subject

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Aug 25, 2020

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Johannesburg – Gay entertainer Lasizwe Dambuza’s views that children as young as seven should be taught about same sex love left social media divided on the issue on Monday night.

The tweet was triggered by his niece, 7, who appeared to struggle with the concept of homosexuality when he told her he was a girl and liked boys.

“So you’re a boy,” the little girl retorted.

Dambuza believes his niece should understand his sexual orientation from a young age, while his brother and the niece’s father, Lungile Mcunu, believes his daughter is too young to be taught about the LGBQTI+ community.

This subject left Twitter divided on Monday night, so IOL decided to speak to people who work with children and canvass their views on homosexuality, sexuality education for young learners and how the matter should be dealt with.

The education stakeholders agreed sexuality education was important, but none seemed to agree about imposing an age for when young children at school should be taught about sexuality education, which includes homosexuality education.

The current life orientation learning area has a comprehensive sexuality education chapter, which educates children about sexuality education.

This is what the experts think:

Professor Labby Ramrathan, an educational expert from the University of KwaZulu’s School of Education.

Prof Ramrathan said he believed early exposure to a diversity of people was important, whether it was by race, class, gender and sexuality.

“It is the how and what form that needs to be controlled in a way that is age appropriate because we know about the stereotypes that we live under.

“There are high levels of violence in our communities towards people who are different, so we need to expose our learners to inclusion as early as possible, exposure is important, but what should be exposed at what level is a question that needs wide consultation,” he said.

Ramrathan said a multi-faceted approach was required, with inputs from people in child development, education, teachers, the community and curriculum development, because understanding the notion of diversity of thought was different for each person.

“This assumption that children should not be exposed to certain things is wrong, because if you give a child at 5 years old a smartphone or any tech tool, they will figure it out with time. It is important to accept for children to be exposed to a range of things,” he said.

Anne Baker, an ex-teacher and the deputy director of the Catholic Institute of Education

Baker said it was important for parents as the first educators of their children, to teach children tolerance, whether it was about race, gender or homosexuality.

“It’s a difficult one when you place the burden back on the school. The school has a vital role to develop children in a meaningful manner, but it is not their job to teach children about homosexuality.

“Parents are the first educators of their children, they must teach children from a young age about tolerance, race, gender and not only homosexuality.

“From a Catholic point of view, we believe people are created in the image of God, we believe all people are good, so we accept everyone as a human being, that is why children must be able to understand that others may have a different way of being,” she said.

Baker said the discussion about homosexuality was wrongly being discussed through the lens of sex.

“In this day and age you will have little children with two fathers or two mothers, so that's where we are as a society.

“We need to teach our children to learn to love themselves and respect other people … we have to accept people for who they are, whether they are different to us, or not,” she said.

Baker said the homosexuality question could not be addressed outside of gender bias, gender violence, xenophobia and racism, saying the issues were all intersectional.

“One thing is that there will be some children who are experiencing feelings of being different to others, we need to create environments which enable them to feel they are not judged or prejudiced against.

“We need to deal with these issues in a compassionate and most caring way, we need to take a non-judgemental approach to who another human being is and how they are,” she said.

Paul Colditz, chief executive of the Federation of School Governing Bodies of South African Schools

Colditz said it would be unfair to dictate to schools how and when children should be taught aspects about sexuality education and said the matter was covered in the CSE programme.

“You cannot in South Africa with all its different systems have a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We cannot dictate when teachers must teach what because we are saying teachers know their communities, they know what would be acceptable in their communities and teachers should have the freedom to teach what is appropriate in their circumstances.

“You will have people in conservative circles who would be very concerned, while others would be quite happy.

“Section 15 of the Constitution gives us the freedom of religion, freedom of thought, those freedoms must be respected also in education.

“That means that when a teacher or a school approaches a subject, it must take into consideration the feelings of the community.

“Within the framework of the constitution, one must be very very careful that you do not offend,” said Colditz.

Xolani Fakude, secretariat officer for the South African Democratic Teachers Union

Sadtu said in principle, they were in support of sexuality education – which includes education about homosexuality.

“We believe it is a progress approach that will build well-rounded South Africans that can contribute to the country meaningfully.

“We believe that sexuality education should not be a by the way thing either.

“Another principle is that, we would say that what becomes important is the ability for every citizen to air their views. These conversations are quite important and they are for the dignity of not just teachers, but everyone.

“We believe everyone has a right to be in a position to state their views without being intimidated,” he said.

Fakude said the discussion about sexuality education should involve everyone – broadly people in education, policy makers, learners, teachers, parents, civil society and the community.

“Some others are saying teaching children about homosexuality is encouraging children to be homosexuals, our view is simply that these are important questions we must have and involve everyone, that is the principle,” he said.

Fakude said the issue of sexuality education was linked with the issue of a lack of psycho-social services, especially at township and rural schools.

“Our teachers play the role of nurses and doctors, social workers, even now with Covid-19 they are compliance officers. We believe psycho-social services should be made available to both teachers and learners because we cannot de-link this issue from the issue of psycho-social services

“We need to have these conversations and we need to be intense and frank, while being honest with each other. This is a conversation that not a single stakeholder can have all the answers to, but as Sadtu we are firm from a principled point of view that this is matter very important issue.

“As a matter of human rights, we are not against it, but it deserve a deeper conversation,” he said.

Allen Thompson, the president of the National Association of Teachers Union (Natu)

Educating children about homosexuality was already under way, he said, but did not believe it had to be elevated to give an impression homosexuality was being promoted.

“In life orientation our teachers are already talking about issues of sexuality and homosexuality, the comprehensive sexuality education which was introduced by the DBE does cover those areas.

“We would not say it has to be a chapter of its own because we are not in the game of promoting the homosexuality or talking about sex education, the lessons are about the human body and not feelings.

“We do not want to have a situation where we are seen to be elevating it to be a subject on its own, because that will paint the wrong picture that there is a promotion.

“All we need to do is to alert the children that there is this group of people who feel this way, but we do not need to exaggerate the subject because we have teachers whose religious and cultural beliefs will make it difficult for them to teach.

“As Natu, we are not opposed to education,” he said.

IOL

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