Gender in education: An overview of developing trends in Africa

Date: May 6, 2011
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The last decades of the twentieth century saw many concerted efforts in research into gender issues all over the world. In Africa, international bodies and educationalists began looking into the way girls and women were faring in education in the 1960s. Their findings were depressing. By the 1970s, some African governments were putting in place pro-female initiative to encourage the enrolment of girls. Consequently, low enrolment figures indicated in the earlier years (1960-70) had improved by the 1990s. In Malawi, statistics indicated that girls comprised 54% of the pupils enrolled in 1990, an increase from 44.8% in the previous years. While in Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria females constituted nearly 50% of the children enrolled in grade one (FAWE 1996). This paper sets out to explore these trends of gender in education in Africa, but specifically singles out Kenya as an example. The paper looks at such questions as: to what extent do the latest figures match practice and reality on the ground? Do these figures mean that gender has adequately been dealt with? Is gender research still relevant in Africa in the twenty first-century? An argument is advanced to suggest that the figures belie actual reality; that gender disparity still persists despite the efforts of some Governments and policies put in place. The paper aims to encourage teachers and researchers to recognise prejudicial practices which may still disadvantage girls, particularly within classrooms, even where policy and statistics suggest that equality has been achieved.

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