Teacher gender discrimination threatens quality of education

Teacher gender discrimination threatens quality of education

Date: January 1, 1970
  • SHARE:

The perception of the community in many parts of Tanzania, particularly in rural areas, is that women should not occupy higher posts, regardless of their education and qualifications. The belief is that these higher posts are the domain of men.

This came into light at a three-day National Conference on Quality Education in Tanzania organised by Oxfam in collaboration with TenMet in-mid March. However, in order to ensure that girls are educated to play their full role in society and development, there is a need to ensure gender equality in the classroom, beginning with teachers.
Participants at the conference bitterly opposed the notion of tribal elders about reserving higher posts for men. They felt that unless people were educated on gender issues, the efforts of the government to eradicate illiteracy among girls would be jeopardised.
Mariamu A. Kongoro, a Headteacher at Msimbazi Primary School in a Dar es Salaam suburb acknowledged that she faces gender discrimination daily in the course of her work. "Yes, there is a biased attitude towards women at this place. Men do not want to see a woman excels to a top post, simply because she is a woman," she noted.
Giving an example on how she faces gender discrimination, Kongoro said whenever she calls a committee of parents to discuss important issues concerning the school development, only a few of them attend, mostly women.
She added that after a thorough scrutiny of the issue, she came to realise that men-parents decline to come because she is a woman head-teacher. “The situation was not so when there was a male head-teacher at the school. The record shows that there was a good attendance of the School Committee as compared to now,” she confirmed.
This is particularly troubling since research has shown that rates of girls’ enrolment in schools relates to the number of female teachers in place. Within the school itself, major constraints to girls’ education includes teachers’ biased attitude towards girl students, a curriculum that reinforces gender stereotypes, and high levels of violence against female students perpetrated by teachers as well as their peers. Women in higher positions will go a long way to rectifying these problems.
Debating on the issue conference participants said there is a dire need to hold a national debate on the issue to determine ways to eliminate gender disparity, particularly in rural areas. “A forum to discuss ‘Gender and the Teaching Profession and Obstacles Women are facing in the Education Sector in the country’ should be convened so that a lasting solution to the problem could be found,” said Joseph Kisanji, a TenMet Coordinator.
He said that male elders usually ignored and failed to implement decisions made by female head-teachers in Maasai areas of the country. “They simply ignore them saying they could not follow the instructions given by a female, whom they regard her as inferior who was subjected to follow orders of males,” he noted.
Giving an example, Kisanji said once a female head-teacher called a School Committee meeting to discuss, among other topics, issues related to future plans aimed at developing the school. Surprisingly, all parents, including the entire School Committee members, most of them males, declined to attend, he said.
Kisanji added that the cause of poor attendance was that a female had convened the meeting, not a head-teacher per say, according to their perception; a woman could not dominate them. “They had all refused to attend giving reasons behind the move that a woman was not competent enough to speak in front of Maasai elders,” he concluded.
Esther Ndunguru, from Songea Teacher Training College, said it was discouraging to note that gender discrimination was hindering the provision of quality education in the country. She encourages the entire community to join hands to fight discrimination, so that children can be educated regardless of their gender.
“We are living in the era of science and technology advancement and if the gender issue is left to dominate our day to day activities, the provision of quality education to all would be a total failure,” she added.
Sarah Kironde, a Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Primary Education Department participant said non-availability of teachers’ houses in remote areas of the country has a severe impact on female teachers to perform their functions well. She mentioned other bottlenecks hindering the prosperity of female teachers to deliver are transport and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services.
Kironde said female teachers have to travel hundreds of kilometers away to attend MCH Clinics, most of them are in big towns and cities, adding to the burden that they face. She suggested that the government should make sure that such facilities are available even in rural areas. “Apart from reducing the burden on female teachers, it would also ensure pupils were getting better and quality education,” she said.
Dr. Dinah Mmbaga, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam urged female teachers not to lose hope. She said women should rather demonstrate their ability in teaching.
“Let us demonstrate that we value our profession and the stereo-type attitude among men would automatically phase out in our community,” Mmbaga said. She warned that failure to demonstrate our ability to deliver would lead to male domination and female would continue to be left behind.
Closing the Conference, Mizengo Pinda, the Minister for Regional Administration and Local Government said the government was aware of these problems and was doing its best to address them.
We know that better and quality education could not be realised unless there were efforts to address the suffering of teachers including the gender issue. Let us fight together this menace for the prosperity of the country so that our future generation could enjoy the fruits of our endeavour.
Nasser Kigwangallah is a journalist in Tanzania. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

Comment on Teacher gender discrimination threatens quality of education

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *