A 20-year-old student has been expelled from Coastal College in Umlazi because he is gay.
Bheka Khanyile says his teacher told him on Monday she could not teach a gay student. He said he had been a victim of the teacher’s mockery since last year. He had been mocked for braiding his hair and wearing make-up.
“When she told me I should leave her class, I went straight home,” said Khanyile, who is studying office administration. “I have been patient with the abuse, but I just couldn’t cope. When she told me I should leave her class, I went straight home”, said Khanyile. He said the teacher had taunted him in front of other students, asking if he had a vagina or a penis.
“It has reached a point where I’ve had it. I have been patient with the name calling and the insults. This time it broke me down. I’ve been made a joke because of my sexuality. I have heard cleaners at the college laughing at me because I’m gay,” he said.
Khanyile said on Monday he was in the cafeteria with other students, teachers and cleaners, when his teacher had started to taunt him. “She started saying horrible stuff like why I’m like this. She said I don’t know how to use my penis, because I would make such a handsome boyfriend, adding that I must leave this homosexuality thing because I was not born like this.
“What killed me inside is that she said all of this in front of other people. She said I must leave her class because she cannot teach a gay guy,” said Khanyile.
He said he went home and reported the matter to his guardian. On Tuesday he came back and reported the matter to a senior SRC member but nothing had been done.
College spokesperson Sne Zuma said the college was not hostile to gay students. But, she said, Khanyile should have approached the SRC or Student Support Services. When GroundUp pointed out that Khanyile had reported the matter to the SRC, Zuma said perhaps there had been no-one to attend to the case at the time.
Equal Education deputy secretary Ntuthuzo Ndzomo said the college must account for the teacher’s behaviour, which was contrary to the Constitution. “No school in South Africa is allowed to discriminate against a student because of sexuality. The student has a right to take the matter as far as the Human Rights Commission. Every student has a right to education regardless of sexuality,” said Ndzomo.
In a statement this afternoon, college principal Sibhanana Ndlovu condemned the incident. “We want to ensure that all our learners can secure … their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief as it is stated in the South African Freedom Charter.”
He said he took “the issue of homosexual abuse very seriously and it is a matter that is very close to his heart.”
“The scourge of lesbians and gay abuse is tearing our society apart and it is imperative that we all play a meaningful role in fighting against it.”
“We are very pleased that this incident has been reported and we applaud the learner for the courage to break the silence. However we want our learners in all campuses to make use of our Student Support Services for any case they want to report,” Ndlovu said.
“The college is doing the investigation internally and the lecturer in question will be disciplined. We will also ensure that the learner gets all the support he needs,” he said.
Article by Nompendulo Ngubane. First published by GroundUp.