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Saturday, 6 March 2010


The Czech government is distributing a new handbook to primary and secondary school teachers called “Homophobia in Schools” – aimed at raising awareness of homosexuality and the problem of bullying based on sexual orientation. The government council behind the handbook says it wants teachers to be better able to recognise homophobia – and to do something about it. Children in schools everywhere call each names in the playground, and often that juvenile name-calling is of a sexual nature; boys and girls will often taunt each other with names such as “poof” or “homo” and so on. For most people it’s a normal part of adolescence, but some believe it should be clearly put into context by teachers, in an effort to create greater tolerance of homosexuality in later life. Lucie Otáhalová, head of the secretariat of the government council for human rights:

“Of course young people laugh at different things, not only at gays and lesbians – that’s part of the youth culture, but I think the role of schools and teachers should be to talk about this, to talk about homosexuality, to discuss it with students and show them that this is not correct. So that’s basically the purpose of the handbook – we want to give the handbook to these teachers, so they know what is homophobia, what types of students are the perpetrators, what types of students are the victims, and how to solve the problem.”

Lucie says the decision to publish the handbook was partly motivated by surveys showing that up to 75% of male pupils in the Czech Republic had negative attitudes towards gays and lesbians. But here at the Londýnská primary school in Prague, I discovered far more tolerant views:

“We sometimes say – you are gay – but we don’t really mean it in the real meaning. I don’t know any, but I think they are a little bit funny, but they are only people so I don’t know why to discriminate against them.” “I tolerate this orientation, and the people, in the community, and I saw a lot of films about this theme. I like these people! They’re only people, and I don’t have a problem with them.”
The deputy head of the Londýnská school, Václav Nádvorník, strongly agrees that schools should accept homosexuality as a fact of life, and says the booklet is undoubtedly a good thing. However he believes it’ll just end up filed away with all the other publications schools like his receive from the government each year:

“There are gays and lesbians in the classroom, it’s true. In Moravia, Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, everywhere. They’re everywhere. But the way how children are educated about them and how they are respected is different, and it’s according to the personality of the teacher. Government can do nothing. As I said, it’s according to the teacher. If the teacher wants to accept it, it’s possible. If they don’t, it’s impossible.”
The Londýnská school is a progressive, cosmopolitan school in urban Prague, known for embracing diversity; attitudes to homosexuality elsewhere in the country, such as in the Catholic heartland of South Moravia, may be quite different. How children view homosexuality and how schools respond to homophobic behaviour depends largely on the attitudes of their teachers and parents, who - of course - simply reflect the values of their community.

Radio Prague