One of the girls' mothers claims that the girls' sexual orientation - not their fashion - was at the root of their suspensions. (File photo)

One of the girls’ mothers claims that the girls’ sexual orientation – not their fashion – was at the root of their suspensions. (File photo)

The Tholulwazi Secondary School in Tsakane east of Johannesburg allegedly suspended Ntokozo and seven other girls for refusing to wear a skirt to school. Nandi Tshabalala, 18, was among the girls and alleges the school principal told the girls that they were not to come back until they “knew whether they were girls or boys.”

She added that one of the girls missed four tests before the group was able to return to school last week following an intervention by the Gauteng Department of Education.

Ntokozo said she missed one test but remained defiant.

“Everyone at school laughed at us when we are wearing skirts as we are used to wearing trousers,” she told OurHealth. “I personally didn’t feel comfortable (wearing a skirt) and said I would go back to school when I’m allowed to wear what I am comfortable in as long as I represent school colours.”

Ntokozo’s mother, Silvia, maintains that she believes the real issue at the heart of the girls’ suspensions was their sexual orientation as lesbians.

“Our children’s rights as women were violated and their right to education was violated too,” said Silvia, who claims that the school has demanded to see her daughter’s birth certificate to verify Ntokozo’s sex.

According to Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane, the department is taking the allegations seriously.

“The department is aware of the matter and views these allegations in a very serious light,” said department spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane. “No discrimination of any form including (those based on) religion, sexuality or creed is allowed in schools.”

Tholulwazi Secondary School principal J. Jiyane declined to comment or provide OurHealth with his full name.

An edited version of this story first appeared in the Saturday Star