Child’s death could have been prevented had government been proactive – activist
‘This is not the first time incidents like these have happened in the last two years’
The death of 12-year-old Sibusiso Mbatha, who took his own life last month after a teacher commented on his sexual orientation, is not the first time such an incident happened according to Out LGBTQ activist Luiz De Barros.
The report into the circumstances regarding the death, presented by Gauteng education MEC Matome Chiloane on Thursday, presented by Gauteng education MEC Matome Chiloane on Thursday yesterday confirmed homophobic remarks made by a teacher at the Khehlekile Primary School.
De Barrows said the death of the child could have been prevented had government been proactive in implementing policies that sensitise teachers around sexual orientation and gender expression.
“This is not the first time incidents like these have happened in the last two years. A number of learners have taken their lives as a result of queer bullying or homophobic bullying. We did a study in 2016 and found that over 50% of LGBTQ people reported being bullied or facing some sort of discrimination at school.
“The department of education knows about this. They don’t need a report to tell them or the child’s death to know what needs to be done.
“I am pleased that there is some acknowledgement of fault that teachers did not act correctly.”
He stressed that sensitisation training should be an integral part of teachers' education and training.
“The department needs to make sure that such training happens and that every educator undergoes this kind of training. Failure to adhere to these policies and codes around treating LGBTQ learners with dignity and upholding their rights must have consequences.”
“It is not acceptable that educators bring their personal, religious and cultural opinions to the place of work. They are civil servants and need to adhere to our constitutional values, not their person values.”
The report detailed how the school’s deputy principal commented on Mbatha’s sexuality while reprimanding him. On the same day, Mbatha was found hanging from the bathroom ceiling in his home.
Mbatha’s aunt Khanyisile Shongwe, who sobbed as the contents of the report were being read, said: “The report only confirmed our suspicions about one educator, but I was shocked to find out there were three others who were involved. Four teachers colluding against a 12-year-old. This shows that he had been enduring so much and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Whether they get suspended or not, it will not bring Sibusiso back. Our lives have changed forever.”
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