UWC educates educators about sexual diversity
A total of 130 students were presented with certificates in the University of the Western Cape's Main Hall on October 2014, for completing UWC's new Sexual Diversity and the Role of the Educators course.
They were honoured in front of an audience comprised of UWC Education faculty members and staff, representatives from the Department of Basic Education, community members, students and parents.
Sexuality in schools can be a complicated matter – as several UWC BEd (education) students discovered while doing their teaching practice, where they found found that a substantial number of pupils were questioning their sexuality and didn’t know who to speak to. The young teachers also noted a higher level of bullying based on sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation than they had experienced during their own school careers.
Deciding to do something about this, they consulted their course convenor, Dr James Lees. Together, they decided that a new course was needed to deal with LGBTI matters in education. The one-term course was developed and accredited in record time, with the United States Agency for International Development funding the development and piloting of the course as part of a six-year partnership with UWC’s HIV and Aids programme and the Faculty of Education.
The course is one of the first of its kind in Africa to help teachers learn how to navigate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex or LGBTI matters in their classrooms and schools, in caring, sensitive, and appropriate ways.
LGBTI matters are of global concern. Around the world, LGBT people are barred from getting an education, seeking jobs, running for office, raising families and starting businesses. There are more than 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality at the moment – and in seven of them, it is actually punishable by death. The course, Dr Lees explained, will help educators to respond compassionately to pupils, and to make section 9 of the South African constitution come alive in their schools.
“South Africa has been a leader in human rights not only on the continent but in the world community, and your constitution is held up as one of the best modern examples of a document that outlines the human rights that all societies must uphold for their citizens,” noted US Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick H Gaspard, at the certification ceremony.
“But it doesn’t end with the adoption of the document. It doesn’t happen when you put words on paper. The delivery and defense of these rights is something that has to take place every day in every community.”
The UWC education students in the class were overwhelmingly positive about their experience.
“The course gave us as prospective teachers the tools to be legitimate sources of love and support for learners and other individuals who are LGBTIQ,” said Jason du Plessis. “It should be offered at all universities, especially for those pursuing a career in Education, as we are at the heart of making a difference where negative attitudes toward the LGBTIQ community are concerned.”
Kim Geduld said, “When a group of school girls came to the class and spoke about how teachers treat them because they are lesbians, it opened my eyes on how to approach situations concerning sexual diversity. I think that overall this is a great course, because the reality is that these things need to be said and dealt with.”
Ambassador Gaspard said he hopes that the knowledge and skills from the course will increase the safety of all students and strengthen their commitment to become allies to LGBTIs, adding that UWC deserved tremendous credit for introduction the course.
“It is gratifying to note that South Africa has a trained group of teachers who are prepared to make a contribution in local schools, to increase students’ knowledge on HIV prevention. You all demonstrate great commitment and passion. Congratulations on receiving your certificates today!”