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Teachers’ perceptions of sex, gender and sexuality diversities: evidence from a Durban primary school.

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Issues of gender and sexuality permeate the entire schooling experience and impact the daily activities of learners. As such, it is critical that educators have a grounded understanding of these topics to ensure that all learners feel included and can obtain the requisite information on gender and sexuality. International studies have concluded that educators have a wholesale deficit of knowledge on sexuality and gender, while prior research from South Africa has mostly focused on the understanding that Life Orientation educators have of sexuality and gender. Thus, this study attempts to contribute to the literature on sex, gender and sexual diversities and schooling by investigating the perceptions that a selected group of intermediate phase teachers in a primary school have of sex, gender and diverse sexualities. This qualitative study aims to investigate teachers’ understanding of, and engagements with, sex, gender and diverse sexualities in the primary school. The sample comprised 12 purposefully selected intermediate phase educators at a selected primary school in Durban. This included teachers who specialised in Life Orientation and teachers who did not. The study was conducted within the interpretivist paradigm and individual semi-structured interviews were used to collect data from the educators. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. The social construction of gender, gender-relations theory and queer theory were utilised to understand the data. The key findings from the study revealed that such educators have varying understandings of sex, gender and sexuality diversity, with the majority having a limited understanding of these concepts and a culture of heteronormativity prevailing in the school at large. Furthermore, the educators did not regularly engage with sex, gender or sexuality diversity in their classrooms and many understood it as being the domain of the Life Orientation specialists. They cited lack of preparation and general discomfort with the topics of sex, gender or sexuality diversity as the main reasons. This study argues that all educators, regardless of the subjects that they teach, should have the requisite knowledge of gender and sexuality.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.