It was reported that the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department’s Special Programmes Unit sent an email asking schools for a list of their LGBT+ students. However, it has since been alleged as not sent by the office, reports City Press.
“The SPU head office will be conducting a workshop to raise awareness on the rights of the LGBTI+ community and to ensure that their lives, morals, and integrity are respected, on October 30 at Mpekweni Beach Resort,” stated the email. “You are therefore kindly requested to forward names of learners in your school that belongs to this community by end of business today [October 16]. This will allow the district office to have a database of these learners.”
The email asking for the list was questioned by Edmund van Vuuren, the spokesperson for the DA provincial education, considering fear of discrimination. It was retracted the day after and it was stated by the SPU that LGBT+ students would no longer be a part of the workshop due to exams, according to the Press.
Mr Vuuren said that the database list would have been careless and unconstitutional, possibly even turning discriminatory.
“It is an infringement on the privacy of the lifestyles of these learners and, in the wrong hands, could very easily result in physical harm.” Van Vuuren said. “While South Africa has come a long way with LGBT+ rights, more needs to be done to create safe and non-discriminatory environments at work and at school.”
Van Vuuren went on to say, “In a climate where ‘corrective rape’ and assault based on sexual preference are commonplace, we cannot afford to expose members of this community to further risk and discrimination.”
Since the polemic, the education department has stepped back from the email and has begun investigating its origin with department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima, who said that there had been no plan for the collection of names of LGBT+ students.
Mtima said: “The department, therefore, distances itself from both the content and the form of this email.” The department has thus started an internal investigation and is working hard to get the source of this email, which distorted the activities and objectives of the department’s programmes.”
Mtima maintains his stance that there was no plan to create the database. “There is no activity or instruction to district coordinators to create a database for the LGBT+ group. The only activity that talks to the LGBT+ group is the awareness workshop scheduled for October 30,” Mtima stated. “The alleged email purporting to be coming from the head office has not been sanctioned by those concerned and the SPU office.”
Mtima told the Press that the LGBT+ awareness workshop was to educate and advocate people about the challenges that LGBT+ students face including homophobia, transphobia, bullying in schools, and hate crimes.
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