Navigating the murky waters of sexual orientation in a world where universal human rights and the right of an individual to practice any profession of their choosing presents an emotional minefield where homophobia, the right of a child to safety and the duties of parents to safeguard their children from harm cross at an intersection of rights, customs, the needs of the community, national and international education policy and the law as established by the Constitution of Namibia.
Fearing reprisal from the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer community (LGBTQ) and accusations of homophobia and unfair employment practices through discrimination based on sexual orientation, parents are cowered into silence or are intimidated to not speak out against members of the LGBTQ community who use their positions in the teaching profession to prey on children.
The Namibian newspaper has carried reports of a principal at Ndeutala Angolo Primary School in the Otamazi Constituency in the Omusati Region who was accused of sodomising a 20-year-old pupil. Also, a 45-year-old male teacher, football coach and hostel supervisor at Jan Mohr Secondary School in Windhoek was suspended from the hostel for sodomising a 17-year-old pupil. Police at Keetmanshoop also arrested a 45-year-old female teacher at Suiderlig Secondary School for allegedly abducting a 15-year-old grade 9 school girl for sex.
The overriding principle in the act relating to education in Namibia requires teachers to lead by example. A teacher, placed in a position of authority above students and who is openly gay cannot and should not be allowed to occupy the position of hostel superintendent for reasons of safety for the learners and conflict of interest for the individual.
When supervising boys in the hostel during shower hour can an openly gay man be expected to control his innate sexual urges and desires in the execution of his duties.
There is a reason why boys and girls are separated according to gender and given different boarding at hostels worldwide and it relates to custom, boundaries and the need to instill discipline from a young age until such a time they reach adulthood when they are free to choose what and whom they want to identify with.
According to an education practitioner who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal: “Some children in boarding schools are vulnerable to sexual exploitation because their longing for love makes them vulnerable to fall prey to sexual predators. These cases are often not reported although it is known by colleagues. This is done at the expense of the child’s rights whereas predators are the ones protected
Children are bribed with money, gifts, food etc. A question worth unpacking is whether a child who may have attained the age of consent (16), and has agreed to have sex with a same-sex individual, has the capacity and cognitive reasoning ability to have foresight of the repercussions that such a decision will have on their future and are they exercising their right to freedom of choice?
Parents are often accomplices in the violation of their children’s rights. Black parents, especially, discourage their children from speaking out or snitching on older people when they may feel aggrieved by the behavior of an adult. In African culture, every elder is your parent and children are expected to honour and respect their parents ‘so that your days on earth may be longer’.
Disregarding the fact that your parents may be child molesters and as a child you have the right to say no! Also, no one may touch you inappropriately! And if they do, you have to report it to your teacher, social worker at school or an adult!
But then, the children are told not to make up stories or that Uncle X is just playing and it’s not serious. Altogether children are taught not to bring shame on the family and these are the tragedies we accommodate because of archaic culture and refusal to let go of old ideas.
Homosexuality is natural and some people are inherently attracted to people from the same gender. The issue is often politicised through religion and practices that God made it so that a man can be with a woman because Adam and Eve - and not Adam and Steve - were the first creation.
This theory has been rightly dispelled and people who identify and practice homosexuality are entitled to human rights like any other human being. But there are boundaries.
Conformity, customs and community standards should be given the same weight when approaching the topic of homosexuality. An openly lesbian woman cannot be a principal at a girl’s school because she has to set an example through behavior and before the children have matured they may think that homosexuality is the standard human norm and it is not.
It is the exception. The statistical equivalent is referred to as the standard deviation.
Neither can a gay man be a pastor of a church and lead a congregation.
What they teach and preach will be in conflict with who they are and it relegates the profession due to conflict between teaching and practice.
Given the conservative nature of Namibian society the issue of sexual orientation is not brought forward for public discourse. The education act is silent on such an important matter but people are comfortable dissecting the subject in the safety and privacy of their social groupings where bias and prejudice is acceptable as long as members of that group are all in agreement with what they believe is their objective reality.
The topic of sexual orientation in the teaching profession needs to be dissected. The debate must be approached from all angles on issues that include the right of an individual to practice any profession of their choosing. The safety of a child. The duties of parents towards their children. The code of conduct amongst educators and the needs of the individual, broader society and Namibian nation at large.
* Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist.
New Era Reporter
2019-02-01 09:58:31 16 days ago