The teacher allegedly made fun of the child over his sexuality. (Stock photo via Getty)
A ninth grader in South Africa has died by suicide at around 14 years old, with media reports suggesting he was mocked by his teacher over his sexuality.
According to Eyewitness News, the education department in Gauteng, South Africa’s smallest province, is investigating the allegations of homophobia, and whether they contributed to the boy’s death.
The teacher at attended PJ Simelane secondary school in Dobsonville allegedly mocked the student’s sexuality in front of a class, during a speech presentation session.
After returning home from school that day, the student died by suicide.
Spokesperson Steve Mabona told the publication that the department of education had met with both the school and the student’s family, and added: “There are allegations which we are ready to continue to investigate as a department. We will make sure we investigate those allegations and report at a later stage on the outcome thereof.”
South Africa’s constitution, created post-apartheid, was the first in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and it is the only country in Africa which has legalised same-sex marriage.
However, the LGBTQ+ community in the country still faces high levels of violence.
Although there is little research into the experiences of LGBTQ+ students in South Africa, one 2016 study published by OUT LGBT Well-being found that 55 per cent of LGBTQ+ youth had experienced verbal insults at school, and 35 per cent had been threatened with physical violence.
Around one in five had been physically attacked, for example being punched, kicked, or beaten, and one in ten had been sexually abused or raped.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that a school student in Johannesburg was punished by a teacher for “immorality” after she celebrated her 18th birthday at a drag show.
The teacher told her that her actions had been “worse” than those of students caught on video giving a Nazi salute.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.