Who is responsible for gender disparities in school leadership?

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The quest for more female leaders in schools should begin from the lower levels. / Solomon Asaba

Almost 8 out of every 10 primary school teachers are female. But as you go up in the ranks of school leadership the females are far less.

In fact, according to data at the Rwanda Education Board (REB), there are about 3 female head teachers for every ten schools, and the trend is not any different in secondary schools. Education experts say this has an impact on the general performance of the education sector in terms of empowering women and girls’ education.

Out of 5,386 primary teachers, 79.5 per cent are female, according to the 2015 Ministry of Education Statistical Year Book. A similar trend is witnessed at other levels of learning. More women work as teachers compared to men, but it is the opposite when it comes to senior roles, as females are largely absent.

An assessment of Primary schools in Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro, showed that female head teachers are fewer and positions such as director of studies, discipline masters, among others are dominated by males.

As Rwanda joins the rest of the world today to mark World teachers day under the theme ‘Valuing teachers, improving their status,’ gender balance in school leadership remains a big issue in most schools.

Annet Batamuliza, the director of King David Academy in Kanombe is not surprised by the findings. She says although leadership positions are available for both male and female, most times women show no interest in taking lead roles.

“It is across the board including the lowest levels of leadership in schools. Take an example of the student’s body; most of the prefects are boys. Although we try to encourage girls, lack of interest and absence of the minimum qualities stops them from contesting,” she explains.

Batamuliza adds that despite boys taking up most leadership posts, girls equally exhibit strong dominance in academic performance, which should have been a firm ground for them to contest for leadership posts too.

“Every term, when you look at the results, there is stiff competition between boys and girls. Most times girls lead and from that, I believe many would beat male students in leadership,” she adds.

However Jane Nakayi, a teacher at Riviera High School points out that even when women have an opportunity to win certain positions most of the available slots only allow them to deputize the males something that creates a negative impression for women leaders.

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Girls should be encouraged to compete with men at all levels. / Solomon Asaba.

“This is a problem in administration and also in student leadership. In the administrative positions, the man will be the dean of studies while the woman will be the deputy dean. Even when female students are given leadership posts, most of them act as assistants. The head girl in a school is always referred to as the assistant head prefect,” she explains.

Nakayi further explains that sometimes these women shun leadership positions in schools because of community perceptions derived from culture and religious beliefs.

“In some religions, it is categorically stipulated that women should not speak when men are speaking. It is not so different from the traditional views that would allow boys enjoy all the freedom and go to school while girls remained home doing chores,” she elaborates.

Teophile Habiyambere, the Dean of studies at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and technology echoes similar views pointing out that for long such cultural stereotypes have obstructed women from contesting for bigger leadership posts and probably it is the reason behind the few numbers of female administrators in schools.

“Traditionally, males were supposed to take the lead role in families. Such perceptions evolved to favor male dominance in certain positions and at different levels of education,” he adds.

A decentralized policy of head teacher appointments

According to the Education Sector Policy, inequalities that exist between girls and boys become more pronounced, as the level of education gets higher.

This tendency is reinforced in education management and administrative positions where there are more men than women involved in different decision making roles.

This simply reflects that lack of opportunity women have to reach higher levels of education required to qualify for higher positions in employment.

Dr Celestin Ntivuguruzwa, the permanent secretary at the education ministry explains that recruitment of school leaders is a decentralized activity conducted by the district authorities.

On student leadership in higher academic institutions, Ntivuguruzwa points out that males dominate because of their aggressiveness during campaigns for student elections.

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There are more female teachers in schools compared to men. / Solomon Asaba

“When we recently organised a retreat for civic education for students in Higher Institutions, I realized that there were many males compared to females. In higher education, it is basically to do with elections in schools and I think the difference is the way they present themselves to the voters,” he explains.

However, the permanent secretary warns that gender disparities have deleterious effects and should be discouraged at all levels of learning.

“Right from primary level to high school, male or female have a right to access equal opportunities and that should be everyone’s goal,” adds, Ntivuguruzwa.

Way forward

Both in education and other fields, most people agree that leadership roles are still dominated by men.

However, some suggest that because leadership positions require a certain degree of academic qualifications, more incentives should be provided to improve female enrollment and completion in higher institutions of learning.

“The most direct way is to promote girls education and the good thing is that the number of females compared to boys is increasing as a result of several government interventions. More should be provided to encourage women train for higher leadership posts,” Habiyambere advises.

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Women make the best leaders, their commitment towards nurturing is stronger. / Solomon Asaba

Alloys Manzi, the discipline master at Remera Matyres advises that authorities should establish good structures to encourage gender balance at all levels in schools.

“If it is the students body, the arrangement should ensure that the posts are shared equally. Even in administration, authorities need to encourage women by availing certain positions specifically for them,” he explains.

However, Nakayi suggests that routine sensitization among all education stakeholders is needed to push for an increase in female leadership.

“Sensitization campaigns should be part of workshops and it is here that more women should be encouraged to pick interest in working towards bigger posts. Appointing committees should as well ensure that there is some sort of balance,” she adds.

Much as there are many encumbrances towards gender parity in various sectors, stakeholders believe that both women and men are equally fitting to occupy leadership positions in school.

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YOUR VIEWS

Alicia Kagirimpundu, a part time teacher
I think female teachers are more concerned about their family obligations than taking up demanding roles in schools. Being a head teacher or an administrator means you need to be dedicated for good service delivery. Surprisingly when it comes to early childhood education, you will realize that women have taken over all the roles since it corresponds to their nature of nurturing.

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Jennet Umutoniwase, a receptionist
Enrollment has improved but still the number of female students leaving university is less than that of males. This is because girls are still facing some problems such as early pregnancies. The issue of school dropouts cannot be disputed, there is a significant reduction but I believe some of the females with potential drop out of school early.

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Pascaline Mugisha, a University student
Much as there are several opportunities, you cannot just hire someone because they are women. They should atleast have the minimum standards. Make a mistake and hire the wrong person, you are compromising the system. I believe as women, we need to work hard instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. We should strike a balance between family and careers.

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Everist Ntaganda, a teacher
Women could just be demoralized just because of poor remunerations. We have seen many occupying big posts in banks, why would they be few in schools. Others just don’t want to upgrade to meet the necessary qualifications. Teaching is hard work and attracting women into better positions requires incentives.