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Teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards same-sex desiring learners in one urban single-sex high school in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Same-sex desiring learners face unique and complex challenges within the school environment where negative perceptions, heteronormativity and homophobia makes it difficult for them to have a normal schooling experience. The study explored high school teachers` understandings, perceptions and attitudes towards same-sex desiring learners in an urban single-sex school. The researcher used a qualitative approach located within the interpretivist paradigm to collect data. The qualitative approach was also used in order to understand how the teachers navigate their teaching and the strategies that they use to include same-sex desiring learners. The social constructionist theory enabled the researcher to explore the variegated attitudes and perceptions that teachers have and how their social backgrounds namely their culture, race, class, religion and age have contributed to their perceptions. The data was collected using photo-elicitation and semi-structured individual interviews which enabled the participants to express their perceptions and attitudes regarding same-sex desiring learners. The interviews were conducted with 17 participants who teach at a selected urban single-sex high school in KwaZulu-Natal. Results of the study revealed that many of the teachers lacked awareness and understanding of the human rights of same-sex desiring learners that are enshrined in the South African constitution and Bill of Rights. The study also revealed how cultural and religious beliefs contribute largely to the lack of tolerance and acceptance of same-sex desiring learners. Societal constructions of femininity and masculinity contributes to the ways in which these teachers perceive same-sex desiring learners and their attitudes towards the learners. Although the teachers may not openly be homophobic to the learners the study revealed that many of these teachers are covertly homophobic which influences how they navigate their teaching, and how they include and exclude learners inside and outside the classroom. Recommendations in the study included educating teachers, more particularly at undergraduate level about same-sex desiring learners so that they are informed and will challenge the socially constructed perceptions and attitudes they may have before entering into a schooling environment. Developing an inclusive curriculum which speaks to gender and sexual diversity and developing policies that protect same-sex desiring learners was also recommended.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.