Home News Pupils speak out on planned unisex toilets in schools

Pupils speak out on planned unisex toilets in schools

Pupils speak out on planned unisex toilets in schools

Pretoria – The planned introduction of unisex toilets in schools may backfire on the Department of Basic Education and subject pupils to increased risks of sexual impropriety.

This was the views of some pupils who spoke to the Pretoria News. Other pupils, however, felt unisex toilets in schools would not harm anyone.

The proposal in the draft guidelines by the department intended to create a safe, inclusive schooling environment for pupils of all sexual orientations and identities. It recommended that schools provide unisex toilets and changerooms, as well as individual stalls.

Gendered bathroom signs and more cubicles are touted as a solution. The concept guidelines include the abolishment of gender-specific pronouns. Teachers will be encouraged to avoid gender segregation by splitting classes, lines or groups into boys or girls, and provision of gender-neutral uniforms to pupils who require them.

Politicians, parents and religious groups have since slammed the proposed guidelines and urged the department to rather focus on improving the quality of education.

Some pupils said the introduction of unisex toilets was unnecessary. They pointed out that unisex toilets would be open to abuse and lead to an increase in teenage pregnancies.

Grade 12 Clapham High School pupil Kgomotso Seloana said: “I do not understand why the status quo has to change. There is nothing wrong with boys and girls using separate toilets.

“This works, and so far gay and lesbian pupils use toilets according to their gender and this has been just fine. I also do not think we should have boys wearing skirts to school.”

Mathibe Makapane, a Grade 12 pupil at Langenhoven Secondary School, said: “Pupils are very naughty There should not be mixing of boys and girls in toilets. That one I do not agree with.

“As for gender-neutral school uniforms, that is acceptable.”

Six girls from the Christian Progressive College in the CBD said unisex toilets were not necessary. The last thing this country wants are cases of sexual assault in unisex toilets that were not necessary to begin with.

“Teenagers always abuse everything. They will end up using unisex toilets to do things they are not supposed to do. You cannot put cameras in the toilets. How are you going to monitor them?” one of the pupils said.

Summit College Grade 8 pupils Gift Tote and Constantine Mutambikwa supported the proposed introduction of unisex toilets. Tote said: “I do not think there is anything wrong with it (alternative sexual orientation). Nobody must feel like they are in prison at school. They must wear whatever they want and be proud.”

Siyamdumisa Buyeye and Leshilo Nhlamolo of Pretoria High School for Girls said there were no boys at their school, but they did not think they would feel very safe sharing a toilet with boys. But unisex toilets for those not afraid to share the facilities with boys would not harm anyone.

Nhlamolo said: “If the introduction of unisex toilets does not mean they do away with the old toilet system, then that is fine. Those who are afraid to share toilets with the opposite sex can continue to use the old ones.”

Buyeye added: “We understand the need to be more inclusive. At our school we have a transgender boy. He has not been a problem to anyone.”

Amandasig Primary School governing body member Clement Menyuko said they had a discussion in September when a teacher noticed that a boy was using the girls’ toilets. “It later emerged that the child truly identified as a girl and felt like a girl. During a meeting we discussed our uniform and religion policy, we took a resolution that no child should be made to feel unwelcome or turned away from school because he or she prefers to wear a skirt or trousers. No child should feel unwanted in this or that toilet.

“Toilets have cubicles and what a person does in there is private. There is nothing wrong with unisex toilets.”

President of the Governing Body Foundation Anthea Cereseto said it was unfortunate that the government had not involved them in the early development of these draft guidelines. Now that the draft had been leaked, it had caused a lot of concern.

She said people were only focusing on specific parts of the draft because they did not have the full report. It was a very important topic that was very sensitive to parents, teachers, pupils and more discussions were needed.

It was never going to be easy to balance the rights of identity of some pupils and the safety of others, she said, or the concerns of parents who may not be comfortable with the idea of a Grade 1 girl being in the same toilets with a Grade 13 boy and vice versa.

On top of all this, the government was still sitting with the problem of schools that still did not have adequate standard toilets and sanitation. This was not to say unisex toilets would not work, and she was the principal at a school that had turned a toilet into a unisex toilet and it worked, she said.

“We need to talk a lot about this to allay people’s fears and to hear the opposition’s views. But I do not think the department would be as extreme as just making this an instruction.”

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the draft has not been finalised and it was going to be published for public consultation next year. Petitions against the proposed guidelines were premature, he said.

Pretoria News

Original Article