LGBTIQ+ group says bullying tragedy a “wake-up call” for SA’s educators


12-year-old bullying victim Sibusiso Mbatha was allegedly told to keep his “gay tendencies” out of school

OUT LGBT Well-being has voiced its profound sorrow over the suicide of 12-year-old Sibusiso Mbatha, who took his own life allegedly due to bullying by a teacher. The organisation also expressed outrage that such incidents persist within South African schools.

Sibusiso tragically passed away on October 23, having hung himself in an outside toilet at his home. It has been reported that the Grade 6 student at Khehlekile Primary School in Thokoza was earlier admonished by a teacher to keep his “gay tendencies” at home. His family disclosed that he’d previously been bullied because of his sexual orientation at school.

OUT emphasised that any form of homophobia and transphobia should not be tolerated in educational institutions.

“We are outraged that teachers, who are public servants entrusted to nurture and educate the youth, continue to impose their personal discriminatory and ignorant views on their learners,” commented Sibonelo Ncanana, OUT’s Human Rights Coordinator. “This prejudiced behaviour perpetuates generational homophobia and creates hostile and stigmatising environments for LGBTIQ+ youth,” he added.

After the devastating loss of Sibusiso, the Gauteng Department of Education invited the media to witness Education MEC Matome Chiloane offering condolences to the family. The young boy was laid to rest on Saturday.

OUT emphasised the need to remember Sibusiso as a beloved son and vibrant individual. He’s been described as a cheerful child who was active in the school choir and sports. Sibusiso’s mother, Mpumi Mbatha, openly accepted and loved her son just as he was, fully recognising his sexual orientation.

The organisation, which frequently receives reports of discrimination incidents in schools, asserted that Sibusiso’s tragic death should serve as a wake-up call for both provincial and national education departments.

A Comprehensive Approach to Safeguarding LGBTIQ+ Students

OUT asserted that addressing this crisis requires a comprehensive approach. This includes the ongoing sensitisation of educators on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The organisation also advocates for inclusive and affirming curricula featuring representations of diverse families and relationships, alongside acknowledging gender diversity. Moreover, at least one gender-neutral bathroom per school should be provided.

OUT also highlighted the South African Human Rights Commission’s recent report on school uniforms, which directs that learners should be allowed to express their true selves by selecting uniform items that align with their identity. A gender-neutral uniform option should also be made available.

“Public relations visits by education officials to the families of victims of school bullying are simply not good enough,” stressed Ncanana. “Lives are at stake, and we know what needs to be done. The National Department of Education must stop dithering and immediately implement long-awaited mandatory guidelines to create safer and inclusive schools for all LGBTIQ+ learners.”

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