Education department’s unisex bathrooms, non gender-specific pronouns open for comment next year

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. l FILE

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. l FILE

Published Nov 3, 2022


Cape Town – Schools should be more “inclusive” and “accessible” for children across the gender spectrum, according to draft guidelines from the national Department of Basic Education (DBE).

The plan has drawn the ire not only of political movements, but some communities too. The concept guidelines includes the abolishment of gender-specific pronouns, adapting the curriculum and establishing unisex bathrooms.

“The draft guidelines were developed by the DBE earlier this year as part of a process to be used to discuss measures that should be put in place to create a (safe) environment for learners of a different sexual orientation,” said spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

“(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.”

Despite the fact that the document is yet to be adopted, its mere existence has already irked the Freedom Front Plus which claims that "the ideology of radical individualism" is taking control of education, at the expense of the community.

"The general view here is that each person is a free-floating individual, who can literally exercise a choice about everything – in this case even about gender," said the party’s Dr Wynand Boshoff.

The ACDP in the province has also objected to the proposed policy.

Last year, party members staged a picket outside the Provincial Legislature holding up signs that read "Down with the gender identity and sexual orientation guidelines“, as well as “Down with unisex bathrooms" and "God created male and female".

The guidelines propose that teachers do away with the use of terms like "boys and girls" and other pronouns that indicate gender. According to the document, this guideline is necessary, "since you cannot tell what a person's gender is simply by looking at them".

Learners must also under no circumstances be named on their baptismal record, if they do not "identify" with this name. Learners must instead be addressed by the name of their choice, even if their name and or gender has not been officially changed.

Other suggested guidelines includes, but are not limited to, a gender-neutral school uniform and non-gender-specific toilets.

The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa’s (Naptosa) Basil Manuel said while they welcomed and supported the guidelines, they warned that engagements should be held with the parents and learners of the school community.

The ANC’s spokesperson for education in the Western Cape, Khalid Sayed, says the party supports inclusive education which should also deal with elements like discrimination along race, class, gender and culture lines.

Weekend Argus previously reported that the Western Cape's Education Department's (WCED) own gender identity and sexual orientation policy would be signed and adopted before the end of this year.

However, the WCED has since indicated that it is participating in the development of the national guidelines, and will be holding off on its proposals.

Weekend Argus.