Primary School Teachers’ Perceptions of Sex, Gender and Diverse Sexualities
An excited Ms Navisha Sewnath graduated with a Master of Education degree for her research that investigated the perceptions that a selected group of intermediate phase teachers in a primary school have of sex, gender and diverse sexualities.
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.
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. Sewnath argues that all educators, regardless of the subjects that they teach, should have the requisite knowledge of gender and sexuality.
‘I hope that society at large will enhance its understanding of sex, gender and sexuality diversity. This might ensure that learners who identify with sex, gender and sexuality diversity do not have to endure bullying or harassment based on their sexual or gender orientation,’ said Sewnath. ‘Consequently, they will enjoy their time at school. The teachers who have agreed to participate in this study might benefit by enhancing their knowledge and awareness of sex, gender and sexuality diversities. The educators might also develop an interest in (the topic of) gender and sexuality.’
Sewnath advised other students to not give up. ‘Studying for a master’s degree is a tough process but the sacrifices and effort are definitely worth it in the end.’
She is thankful for the support from her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Shakila Singh. Sewnath plans to pursue her PhD.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan