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MBABANE – “Embrace the transgender in schools.”

The above message was sent by the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General, Lot Vilakati, when addressing teachers during the Gender Equality as a Fundamental Human Rights and Sexual Orientation workshop at Sigwaca House, yesterday. A transgender person is someone whose gender identity differs from that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Vilakati said the issue of lesbians, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer was the future and they would need to have a seat in the executive at some point. Currently, he said they passed a resolution of 40 per cent females and 60 per cent males in their executive.


He said in the future, transgender people may also seek to be represented in the national Executive, which they should embrace and not stand in their way. Vilakati said some of the transgender persons had been forced to dropout of school and college because of bullying by the teachers and peers. He said there were teachers who dropped out of institutions of higher learning because they were bullied, as a result of their sexual orientation. “Schools are not your churches,” he said. Vilakati said the SNAT constitution was against discrimination based on gender, religion and sexual orientation. He then asked the teachers how many transgender persons had they removed from the schools following their attitude.  He said the role of teachers was to educate learners and not discriminate against them.  He said within the organisation, they had a minority group in their midst, adding that some were known, while others remained in the closet.

Vilakati stated that they were bringing up the subject to teachers as they came across all kinds of people and their behaviour impacted either negatively or positively. He said; “All humans are an image of God.” Vilakati said, therefore, there was no need to crucify those people who were born male but identified as female. According to Vilakati, teachers interacted with transgender people, most of whom were their pupils.  The SG was reacting, following the testimonies made by the Trans Swati members, Sethu and Model C. Sethu said she was a transgender woman, who grew up at Ngudzeni and during her childhood, played with girls a lot, although she sometimes looked after the family cattle. She said she relocated to Manzini when she was supposed to attend high school.

She enrolled at Manzini Central High School. This, she said, was where she experienced a lot of bullying from her schoolmates, despite being a member of the Scripture Union.  As a brilliant pupil, Sethu said the level of discrimination meted by her then teacher made her dropout. Sethu said whenever they were given class work, she would apply herself and submit her work but the teacher would not mark it. On top of that, Sethu said the teacher would call upon the learners to show their exercise books and those whose work was not marked would get a beating. “I used to be the only one whose work was not marked,” she claimed. She said even in class, when the teacher posed questions and they raised their hands, she would not point at her.  “I ended up dropping out of school, because of discriminationm which was meted to me by a teacher,” she said.

Meanwhile, Model C, on the other hand, stated that she was driven out of her home for her sexual orientation and was forced to rent a flat without any support. She said after some time, the family accepted her and even encouraged her to introduce her partner. Model C said she was happy that her family was educated on the issues of sexual orientation and now understood it.

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