The actions of an Eastern Cape school principal who forced 38 girls to declare their sexual orientation in front of their parents on Tuesday has been widely condemned.
The Commission for Gender Equality, provincial department of education, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) community and the Democratic Alliance have all vowed to launch investigations into the conduct of principal Nomampondomise Kosani of Ulwazi High School in Mdantsane.
Kosani caused widespread outrage after she is alleged to have called the group of 38, aged 14 to 18, together to force them, in front of their parents, to point out their girlfriends.
Kosani first called the group in after two girls were found kissing in a bathroom. She has refused to comment on the matter.
Commission for Gender Equality legal adviser Kerry Anne Oosthuysen said the commission had, by law, a mandate to investigate and resolve complaints regarding gender-related issues.
Oosthuysen said the commission – along with the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) cluster departments, civil society organisations and the LGBTI community – had called an urgent meeting to plot a way to resolve the matter.
Oosthuysen said the Eastern Cape office of the commission was gathering information on the affected pupils and their parents and would “in accordance with its mandate” formally investigate the allegations.
Former premier and DA MPL Nosimo Balindlela said she was disappointed with the “harsh and unfair” action taken against the girls and would visit the school as soon as possible.
Balindlela said school guidance teachers needed to be given greater roles in local communities to help people understand and protect those in their care, whether they be gay or straight.
“These young girls should be helped to understand their choices rather than being humiliated,” Balindlela said. “They should be educated rather than scorned by teachers [fixated] on their sexual orientation.”
Speaking on behalf of the LGBTI community, founder member Nomfundiso Joseph said they were extremely concerned by the principal’s actions.
Joseph questioned what Kosani’s reaction would have been if the couple found kissing in the toilets was heterosexual.
“In a society that has not accepted homosexuality, the principal has put the pupils at a number of risks such as prejudice, gender violence and rejection at home and in communities,” said Joseph.
“Coming out is a deeply personal choice. The school needs immediate intervention and training on homo- sexuality.”
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the department would follow up on the matter as the constitution did not allow for anyone to be discriminated against because of gender or sexual orientation.
“As the department we feel very offended and whoever is behind this will have to face [our] wrath,” said Mtima.
“These actions go against the constitution of South Africa and the department will have to follow up on the matter.”
Social media was abuzz yesterday with many users critical of the principal’s actions and saying she had not dealt with the situation in the right manner. They also voiced concerns about the violation of the rights of the pupils involved.
Xolile Martin said: “My fear is that one of these children attempts suicide.
“[The principal] has no right. She must be taken to the equality court.
“Can one believe her attitude about this, as if she is Mother Nature herself. Very upsetting.”
Another user, Zanda Magqaza, said: “This is actually very serious. It’s a human rights issue, invasion of privacy, abuse of power, abuse towards children. No one is to be forced to come out about anything.” — firstname.lastname@example.org