kzn_teachers_to_address_gay_rights_in_classroomA hands-on, easy-to-use school curriculum training module on LGBTI issues for teachers to use in the classroom has been launched in Durban.

The module was developed as the culmination of a study initiated by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, and Co-Principal Investigators, Drs. Thabo Msibi and Finn Reygan at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2012.

The project aimed to sensitise 800 teachers in KwaZulu-Natal to LGBTI identities in the curriculum to help ensure that schools are safe and affirming spaces for all learners, regardless of sexuality. It also upskilled participants on how to best challenge homophobia and transphobia in the classroom.

The study found that many school learners who self-identify as LGBTI or are assumed to be LGBTI continue to be denied rights through forms of homophobia and hate speech, exclusion, marginalisation and violence. These negative experiences occur despite the protections offered by both the Constitution and the South African Schools Act, said the study leaders.

“While schools are often seen as sites of support, care and assistance, and teachers and school principals are seen as making a difference in young people’s lives, the reality is quite different when it comes to the lives of LGBTI young people and adults, who continue to experience discrimination and violence,” commented Professor Potgieter.

The study saw religious groups, NGOs and teacher organisations discuss the challenges that many in the LGBTI community face today. With the successful conclusion of the study and training, the curriculum resource pack on LGBTI issues is now available for teacher and educators. The project team called for  the training module to be rolled out nationwide.

“We have recommended that the training module be provided not just to Life Orientation trainer teachers but to trainee teachers across all subject areas. Sexual and gender diversity must be included in the National Schools Safety Framework,” explained Professor Potgieter.

“Academic staff in Schools of Education should be adequately trained in advance on the issues contained in the training module so that they are sensitised and conscientised around these issues and therefore prepared to fully engage in an affirming manner with the training content,” she said.

The recommendations will be sent to the Departments of Basic and Higher Education for consideration.

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