Figures obtained by The Times indicate a sharp rise in children being withdrawn from schools, which is thought to be directly linked to the ongoing protests against LGBT-inclusive lessons. Gradually, concerned parents across the world and in Africa, are taking an interest in what their kids are being taught in school. Recently a friend, a Mauritanian mother, shared a video where an educationist was exposing the perverse content found in official books for primary schools’ children.
I was shocked, to see the number of sexually explicit pictures and scenes with LGBTQ content. I wondered whether (African) parents are aware of the type of content their kids are exposed to in schools.
- The festering of homosexual activities and content in African schools
The African continent is known as a difficult place for homosexuals, especially because of colonial laws, religious morality, and the idea that homosexuality is imported by the West. With the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are very limited in comparison to the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Out of the 55 African states, homosexuality is outlawed in 34. Of the 72 countries worldwide that criminalize homosexuality, 32 of them are in Africa, where punishments range from imprisonment to the death penalty in countries such as Mauritania and Sudan.
Discriminations and protests against homosexuals have usually being limited to public spaces. But it is now a trending and burning issue in the education sector, where LGBTQ activists and authors are attempting to introduce their ideas to be more understood and accepted. As a response, we have seen many African schools and libraries banning and challenging books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters that are written by LGBTQ+ authors.
In East Africa, the Tanzanian government recently banned from schools several children’s books on sex education, accused of contravening “cultural and moral standards,” according to Education Minister Adolf Mkenda. Among the books banned is “Diary of a Wimp: Greg Heffley’s Logbook,” a series of American graphic novels that have sold millions of copies worldwide. The head of state Samia Suluhu Hassan also called on student leaders to be wary of “imported cultures” from abroad. “If you are Tanzanian, live according to our culture,” she told them.
In Kenya, the government is cracking down on foreign books with gay content that it feels targets teenagers. This crackdown follows a public outcry from parents with school-age children and religious officials who are demanding the government to do a thorough audit of books in the market and ban the ones with gay content. Text Book Centre, one of Kenya’s leading bookstores in Nairobi, was ordered to stop selling “What’s happening to me?”, a controversial teen book which lures male teens into LGBTQ practices that are illegal.
In Uganda, a country known for its staunch opposition to homosexuality, the parliament is investigating the festering of LGBTQ+ activities in schools, amid public outcry. In South Africa, the most LGBTQ+ friendly African country, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2006, schools are slowly moving towards teaching and including LGBTIQ+ realities in their classrooms and curricula. The Department of Basic Education is in the process of overhauling its textbooks to be more inclusive of sexual and gender minorities and same-sex families; but not everyone’s happy about it.
Even though reading LGBTQ+ books in schools can help children to better understand the sexual identity of LGBTQ+ groups, should we institutionalize it for all through the education system? Wouldn’t it be better to allow those interested or curious to individually search for information about it? Would it better to let children grow and mature before making their own informed decision about LGBTQ?
- A call and outcry to protect children and families
Some African parents don’t think their government is doing enough to protect their children from homosexual activities in schools, citing the fact that family identity is one of the moral fibers of African societies. Doreen Ndeezi, a Ugandan mother of four, believes her country would lose its culture and values if the situation is not urgently addressed.
Like many other Africans, she welcomed the decision of legislators to investigate cases of LGBTQ practices in schools, but believes the priority should be protecting minors, because “when someone is an adult, they can make a choice. It is their right to choose which path they want to take. But for minors, there should be an ethical team on board that is protecting minors in schools”. In general, most Africans, believe LGBTQ rights should not be given any attention, seeing it as a “Western project”.
- Could homeschooling a way of protecting children from this influence of LGBTQ+?
I believe parents have the rights to choose the form of education that is best for their child. They have moral and legal responsibility for their children, and the freedom to make fundamental decisions for their families. And homeschooling, I believe, is a way to minimize or suppress the LGBTQ+ influence on their kids. Through this, I am, in no way, promoting prejudice, discrimination and intolerance.
I clearly know and understand that education should aim to foster critical thinking and an appreciation for diversity, and know that parents, alike public education, should strive to create an inclusive and safe environment for their children to learn and grow.
But, I ultimately believe we should allow parents the freedom to choose what is best for their kids according to their cultural or religious beliefs and values.
If you accept considering homeschooling, there are some factors you need to reflect on.
- If yes, what are the preconditions to start home-schooling?
The preconditions to start homeschooling can vary depending on the country in which you live. Generally, there are several things that you should consider before deciding to homeschool your child:
- Legal requirements
It is important to research the laws and regulations related to homeschooling in your country. Some areas may require you to register your home school, follow certain curriculum standards, or meet other requirements. In some African countries, such as South Africa and Kenya, homeschooling is legally recognized and regulated by the government. In others, such as Nigeria and Ghana, homeschooling exists in a legal gray area, and parents may face challenges in accessing resources, support and standardized tests. In other African countries, homeschooling is either not recognized or is very uncommon. However, with the rise of technology and online learning platforms, it is becoming easier for parents to access resources and materials to support their children’s education at home.
- Time commitment
Homeschooling can be a significant time commitment, as parents are responsible for developing and delivering lessons, grading assignments, and providing ongoing support to their child.
My Mauritanian female friend as we continued our WhatsApp conversation on this topic, commented that women are now as busy as men, making time commitment, a critical factor you should consider.
You will need to choose a curriculum that is appropriate for your child’s age, skill level, and educational goals. There are many resources available online, and homeschooling organizations could help you choose and develop a solid curriculum.
- Support network
It can be helpful to connect with other homeschooling parents or organizations to share resources, ideas, and support. You may also want to consider hiring a tutor or enrolling your child in classes or activities to provide socialization and additional learning opportunities.
- Financial considerations
Homeschooling can involve some costs, such as purchasing curriculum materials, textbooks, and supplies. You should consider your budget and financial resources when deciding to homeschool.
Overall, homeschooling can be a rewarding and effective way to educate your child by tailoring the curriculum to their needs, interests and learning style. However, it can reduce socialization opportunities and affect kids’ social skills and emotional development. Furthermore, homeschooling is not always feasible or accessible to everyone, as it requires a significant investment of time, resources, and dedication from parents or guardians, especially working parents or those with limited educational backgrounds. Therefore, to succeed in it, you need careful planning, preparation, and dedication. It is important to do your research, seek support and resources, and be prepared for the challenges and rewards of homeschooling.
- When looking at existing options, could homeschooling be envisaged as the best education system?
Ultimately, homeschooling certainly has the advantage of giving parents more control over what their kids learn and could be a safer way to shape kids’ mindsets with cultural, religious and social values that are acceptable to their parents’ standards.
It has been gaining popularity in some African countries, largely due to factors such as dissatisfaction with the quality of education in public schools, religious and cultural beliefs, and the need to provide specialized education for children with special needs. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the trend towards homeschooling, as many African families have had to adapt to remote learning due to school closures and restrictions on in-person gatherings. And I strongly believe that beyond COVID-19, LGBTQ+ would be another driver for the growth and adoption of homeschooling until it becomes the dominant form of education in the future. It is finally up to parents and guardians to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling and decide what is best for their children.
My aim through this article, is to activate parents to contest what is taught in the classroom, what books are available to students, and the professional authority of teachers, administrators, and librarians to carry out their work. I’m thinking well beyond a judicious effort to prompt reconsideration of controversial aspects of certain school curricula or questions of the age-appropriateness of certain materials and narratives.
Education and knowledge management consultant
Managing Director of Kabod Group and President of Muna Kalati.