Limpopo Education Dept Affirms Commitment to LGBTQI+ Learners


Despite minimising a recent incident of discrimination against a transgender learner, the Limpopo Department of Education has affirmed its commitment to safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQI+ learners.

SABC News recently reported that Lucky Matlebjane, 19, claimed she faced ostracism and prejudice from both fellow students and teachers at Dinakanyane Secondary School in Ga-Seroka, situated around 115 km south of Polokwane.

She said she endured constant harassment which led to her dropping out of school, and leaving her traumatised and having thoughts of suicide.

Claims of Discrimination Downplayed

In a statement, the Limpopo Education Department appeared to lessen the extent of Matlebjane’s discrimination and insisted that “the learner has always been accepted and affirmed as a young vibrant, respectable, and humble learner at the school, who is also a member of the LGBTQIA community with a bright future.”

Department Spokesperson Matome Taueatsoala claimed the school unenrolled Matlebjane last year in agreement with her guardians after she missed classes for a long period due to ill health. When she returned to school in January after five months, this caused a “disruption” because other learners responded with “loud cheering and applause”.

This disruption led to an “unfortunate encounter between a teacher and this learner” that resulted in Matlebjane wanting to transfer to an alternative nearby school as “she felt that the encounter was a reaction to her LGBTQI identity”.

Taueatsoala stated the school has since apologised to the learner and her parent for the “unintentional offence”, the matter has now been resolved, and the school has accepted her back to classes. He said that Matlebjane was also being provided with psychosocial support.

MambaOnline has not been able to reach Matlebjane to confirm these claims.

Department Commits to Protecting Rights of LGBTQI+ Learners

The department, nevertheless, has been adamant in asserting that LGBTQI+ learners must, under the constitution, be guaranteed the right to education without discrimination or prejudice on any grounds, including their sexual and gender identities.

“Educators, School Governing Bodies, and other relevant stakeholders are duty-bound to respect, protect, and promote the rights of learners with diverse identities,” said Taueatsoala.

He revealed that the department is awaiting the approval of the Draft SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics) Guidelines by the Council of Education Ministers in the coming months. Thereafter, institutional mechanisms will be prepared to train and capacitate schools to apply the guidelines.

The guidelines were leaked in the media in November 2022 and while welcomed by LGBTQI+ activists, sparked a backlash from conservative religious groups and political parties, including the FF+ and ACDP.

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