The study contributes to existing, but limited research on the social and academic experiences of lesbian learners in South African secondary schools. A lesbian refers to a woman who is sexually attracted to the same gender as herself. The purpose of this study was to obtain an in-depth understanding of the positive and negative experiences of lesbian youth in South African secondary schools.
A qualitative research approach guided by the interpretivist paradigm was followed, as the focus was on the meaning that the individual participants awarded to their experiences and their world. A case study research design was used as it is regarded as a process of in-depth inquiry that generates detailed descriptions of a single unit or bounded system.
The findings of this study are in line with existing literature on the experiences of lesbian learners in secondary schools. As in the literature this study indicated that the lesbian learners included in this study are subjected to negative social and academic experiences such as; homophobic verbal, sexual and emotional harassment and abuse, as well as school disengagement. Their positive experiences included a decrease in homophobic harassment and abuse, an increased sense of self worth and confidence, increased visibility, academic achievement and resilience and lower levels of absenteeism, truancy and school dropouts.
It was interesting to note that most of the heterosexual learners’ and teachers’ at the schools included in this study’s attitude towards the lesbian learners have changed for the better. Most of the heterosexual learners and teachers seemed to be supportive and accommodative of the lesbian learners even though they still found it difficult to accept their lesbian sexual orientation. Based on the outcome of this study, it is recommended that the learners and teachers at the schools included in this study, be sensitised and capacitated with regard to homosexuality, bisexuality and trans-sexuality.
Mini-dissertation (MEd)--University of Pretoria, 2015.