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Young women expelled for wearing trousers

Written by Thabo Molelekwa

Ntokozo Mathonsi, 18, says she should not have to wear a skirt to get an education. About two weeks after Ntokozo and seven other girls were suspended from an East Rand high school, the girls are back to school after the Department of Education intervened.

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

About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98

1 Comment

  • Sad how boys get to wear pants as much as they like but girls don’t have that choice, it’s either a tunic or a skirt. I hated skirts at school but had no choice. It’s good to see young girls speaking up about what they are comfortable with.

    Please do keep us informed about the progress of this story. All schools should change this policy.