An excited Ms Sinenhlanhla Ngcobo graduated with her Master’s in Education for her research that explored Teachers’ Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Same-Sex Desiring Learners in One Urban Single-Sex High School.
‘Same-sex desiring learners face unique and complex challenges within the school environment where negative perceptions, heteronormativity and homophobia makes it difficult for them to have a normal schooling experience,’ explained Ngcobo.
Results of the study revealed that many of the teachers lacked the consciousness and understanding of the human rights doctrine of same-sex desiring learners that are enshrined in the South African Constitution and Bill of Rights. The study also revealed how cultural and religious beliefs contribute largely to the lack of tolerance and acceptance of same-sex desiring learners.
‘Societal constructions of femininity and masculinity contribute extensively to how the teachers perceive same-sex desiring learners and their attitudes towards the learners. Although the teachers may not openly be homophobic to the learners, however, many teachers are covertly homophobic which influences how they navigate their teaching, and how they include and exclude learners inside and outside the classroom,’ said Ngcobo.
She argues that ‘educating teachers, more particularly at undergraduate level about same-sex desiring learners so that they are informed and will challenge the socially constructed perceptions and attitudes they may have before entering into a schooling environment is important.’
Developing an inclusive curriculum which speaks to gender and sexual diversity and developing policies that protect same-sex desiring learners was also recommended by the study.
Ngcobo thanked her family, friends and supervisor, Dr Bronwynne Anderson for being her support system during her studies.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan