Zimbabwean school backs gay teacher

Gay people in Zimbabwe face widespread stigma

A teacher in Zimbabwe has come out to his students as a way of dealing with homophobia at the private senior school.

Neal Hovelmeier, who is the deputy head of the sixth form at St John’s College in the capital, Harare, said he could only deal with the issue if he was “open and transparent about it myself”.

In a letter released by the school, he said that some of his former students had confided to him that they had felt intimidated and ostracised at the school:

“I have felt increasingly troubled by the fact that we as an institution have never openly dealt with trying to curb homophobic behaviour and, equally, failed to provide a safe learning experience for students who may identify as being gay or bisexual to truly flourish and feel accepted,” he said.

The school’s headmaster and deputy released a joint statement praising Mr Hovelmeier, saying he was “a man of complete integrity and whose record, over many years at this fine College of ours, is unimpeachable.”

The British curriculum boys’ school was founded in 1986 and admits boys from the age of 12 to 18, its website says.

Homosexual acts and gay marriage are banned in Zimbabwe and gay people face widespread stigma.

In most communities, it has been too dangerous to live as openly homosexual.

Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign as president last year after more than three decades in power, once infamously said gay people were “worse than pigs and dogs” and claimed homosexuality, was “unAfrican”.

Sammie Idika