HARARE – Resignation of the gay deputy headmaster of St Johns College in Harare is an indication that there should be dialogue about homosexual teachers, a teachers’ union official has said.
Neal Hovelmeier resigned after his confession before students on September 21 that he was gay triggered an outcry . He resigned citing death threats and pressure from parents.
Secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Raymond Majongwe said Hovelmeier’s resignation is an indication that there should be dialogue about homosexual teachers.
“As a country we must conduct dialogue over this issue of homosexuality because it is a reality in our country, so we can’t pretend that it’s not there.
“The resignation therefore means that wherever he is going to go, he is going to remain homosexual, so we are simply saying to our ministry let’s engage and lets dialogue because just like we have this teacher who is homosexual, there are children as well who are of that sexual orientation.
“Hovelmeier made a personal decision whether it was under duress or what, but the most importantly thing is that we are basically hiding because there are many other teachers who are not going to come out now,” he said.
He said homosexuality should not be discriminated but dealt with at schools.
“We need policies in terms of how we handle these people because the moment when we identify somebody who is homosexual, we go after them with arrows and chase them away and that will not kill or deal with the problem.
“Let us engage as citizens and see how best we can handle this homosexual matter without calling anyone names, without chasing after them, let us dialogue and see how best we can handle the children and the teachers who are of this sexual orientation.”
Majongwe said while they are opposed to abuse of students or abuse of fellow workers by people of this sexual orientation, the most important thing is to accept that we have these people in our midst.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said the resignation was a good decision as it relieved the tension from the school.
“I think Hovelmeier’s resignation is a very welcome development and it sanitises the environment at the school. Tension was building up at the school and he has done an honourable thing which brings relief to the school.
“The school now needs to deal with the effects of what happened and to look at how they will handle a future incident of that nature.
“Zimta respects the rights of individuals but we do not support the practice of homosexuality, we need to protect schools in terms of conflict,” he said.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) said the unfortunate incidents surrounding the “coming out” of a teacher at St John’s College lends credence to their communities claims that, far from being absent from African cultures, homosexuality is deeply embedded in all strata of societies in this country.
“It is tragic that LGBTI people continue to be hounded and pressured out of employment on account of their sexual orientation.
“As the LGBTI Sector in Zimbabwe we do not expect every individual Zimbabwean to embrace LGBTI rights or the issue of homosexuality. But we do expect Zimbabweans to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture and sexual orientation.
“We are a country beset with a multitude of problems – soaring unemployment, poverty, a flailing economy, cholera and a fragile health service, to name but a few, to devote our time into harassing those of a different sexual orientation.
“With the intense climate of homophobia existing in Zimbabwe and the restrictive legislation that makes it difficult for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to be open about their sexuality and to use public space in safety, coming out is a display of immense courage and boldness.”