Religious Groups Fuel Trans Panic Over SA Schools’ “Transgender Ideology”


Conservative South African religious groups are inciting trans panic among parents, claiming that the Department of Basic Education is trying to “indoctrinate” children with “transgender ideology”.

The furor is centred on the department’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Gender Responsive Pedagogy toolkit, a progressive and practical guide for teachers aimed at “promoting gender equality in early childhood development”.

It assists teachers in becoming aware of gender biases, enabling them to help children “break free from traditional stereotypes about gender that may limit their growth and development”. 

It addresses issues such as stereotypical gender-specific toys, play behaviours, and storybooks, activities that break down traditional gender roles, how to respect the individuality and self-expression of children, and to promote diversity in the classroom in an age-appropriate manner.

Fomenting Anti-LGBTQ Hysteria and Trans Panic

Using alarmist, incendiary and divisive language and spreading misinformation, several anti-LGBTIQ+ groups hope to create widespread opposition to efforts to create more welcoming and inclusive schools for all learners.

This coalition of faith leaders claims to represent over 20 million Christians, Muslims, and adherents of traditional African Spirituality faiths.

FOR SA, one of the groups opposed to the toolkit, warns that the guide “trains teachers to create a culture within pre-primary and primary schools (aged 0 to 9 years) that conflicts with the norms and values regarding sex and gender that many parents hold and have the legal right to pass onto their children.”

The organisation ominously claims that it “compels teachers to introduce the culture and context of transgender ideology into pre-primary and primary schools.” (The charged term “transgender ideology” is commonly used to demonise efforts to create an inclusive and rights-affirming environment for transgender individuals.)

FOR SA argues that the department’s actions will lead to confusion among children and cause division in the home that will “deeply impact their family relationships and educational outcomes”.

Claims of “Demonic and Satanic Education System”

The website Dear South Africa describes the ECE toolkit as “a gender ideology and gender identity training programme” and calls for parents to speak out against this “single ideology and worldview that directly subverts the views and values traditionally held by many parents and communities”.

A Dear South Africa Facebook post has generated more than 1,200, mostly critical, comments, with one individual stating “This is totally wrong and contrary to the Word of God.”

Others accuse the Education Department of “wanting to brainwash the kids”, “grooming” young children, and introducing a “completely demonic” and “satanic education system”. Another asserts that the toolkit “is a crime against humanity and the worst abuse of children imaginable.”

Few seem aware that South African schools are still not safe for LGBTIQ+ learners, many of whom continue to face discrimination, abuse and stigma, not just from their fellow schoolgoers but also from teachers. 

In November last year, for example, a damning report on the tragic suicide of 12-year-old learner Sibusiso Mbatha uncovered evidence of emotional and homophobic abuse by the deputy principal at his Gauteng school. 

The Department of Basic Education Responds

In a statement on Monday, the department acknowledged concerns about the the toolkit but insisted that it “is not aimed at promoting any particular ideology, including transgender ideology, among young children.”

It asserted that it simply seeks to create learning environments that are free from harmful gender stereotypes and biases and to ensure that all children have equal opportunities to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.

The department explained that the toolkit is guided by several government policies such as the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence (GBV) and Femicide, which aims to address the unacceptably high levels of GBV in the country. It also draws “from a wealth of scientific evidence on how children develop and learn, as well as best practices from around the world.”

The department noted that research shows that gender identities and stereotypes about intellectual abilities start forming from a very young age, as early as 2 to 6 years old. 

“These early biases can have a profound and lasting impact on children’s self-perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, and life choices. They also contribute to gender-based discrimination and the perpetuation of societal inequalities,” it added.

“Contrary to what some have claimed, this is not an imported Western agenda, but a sincere attempt to address the realities confronting our children here in South Africa, guided by the Constitutional Values of equality and dignity,” said the department.

It urged all those who have concerns “to engage with the actual content of the toolkit, and to work with the Department in good faith to create a better world for ALL our children in their diversity.”

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Latest Comments
  1. Luke
    Reply -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend