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Change the world


Increased competition between schools in the education sector and concerns about the importance of inclusion for sustainability within the sector, led to this study investigating relationship management - specifically the experience and perspectives of LGBTQ alumni in all-boys’ schools in the Eastern Cape.


From left Professor Miemie Struwig, Nhlakanipho Mahlangu and Prof Christi van der Westhuizen 

Former Rhodes University SRC President and student activist Nhlakanipho Mahlangu, who graduated with her Master’s degree in Business Management at Nelson Mandela University’s recent autumn graduation, addressed this issue, inspired by her experiences as a student leader.

The study locates itself in the intersections between gender and sexual diversity and economic citizenship in the broader perspective of school inclusivity. At the core of the study is an investigation of the extent to which LGBTQ alumni experience belonging through the relationship management lifecycle of their former all-boys schools.

The ten LGBTQ alumni of all-boys’ schools in the Eastern Cape interviewed, believed that relationship management was under-utilised to facilitate LGBTQ belonging. Instead, it was used to affirm those who fit the mould of the ‘quintessential old boys’ network, by defining the masculine behaviours that learners in all-boys’ schools are encouraged to aspire towards.

The findings also illustrated that the culture of silence around non-confirming sexuality is sustained in the post-schooling relationship life cycle and results in the absence of the LGBTQ customer voice in the drafting of school strategy and policy.

LGBTQ alumni who speak out about controversial issues often face admonition from their former teachers and peers. Participants criticise the over-emphasis on fundraising and the absence of discussions on diversity. LGBTQ alumni are therefore marginalised in the process of value co-creation, as they believe that their former schools do not view them as legitimate collaborators.

These findings revealed the need to question the extent to which LGBTQ alumni can enjoy the fullness of the value proposition of all-boys’ schools, and what can be done to ensure LGBTQ belonging. The findings also concurred with existing literature, as participants defined their school experiences as exclusionary and characterised by a fear of failing to assert themselves in a hypermasculine school environment.

Nhlakanipho studied BSocScience in politics and industrial economics and followed up with her honours in media management in 2018, when she was SRC president. “In the aftermath of Fees must Fall it became clear that there was a need to reimagine what it means to create a sustainable institution”, she says.

For her master’s study on this topic, Nhlakanipho approached Professor Christi van der Westhuizen of Mandela University’s Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy to serve as her supervisor.

To incorporate the distinct area of relationship management alongside sociological insights on sexuality and gender, Prof Miemie Struwig, from the Business Management department, came on board as co-supervisor.

The collaboration of humanities and business is much needed in the fast-changing environment of business, Prof Struwig said.

“Currently, I am taking a break from studying, but I will return for further studies as I realised, I am a topic-driven person. I hope to remain an active citizen as I chart my plan for the future.

“While pursuing my master's I was able to contribute to many Mandela Pride workshops and events and led several community initiatives in Nelson Mandela Bay. I hope to continue making a positive impact on my community”, Nhlakanipho added.

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Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160