What is it with the so-called “women’s” occupations such as nursing, secretarial jobs and social work? Who was charged with naming engineering, physics and the so-called, “hard sciences” so they can be dominated by men and boys? By approximation, over 50% of this country’s population is women. What this means is that all the men put together are not enough to achieve a first world status.
The full participation of women in science and technology at the leadership level is crucial for realization of Rwanda’s Development Vision 2020.In order to attain the envisaged goal of an industrialized middle income economy driven by highly trained and motivated workforce, appropriate modern technology must be applied in almost all sectors of economy. This goal can only be achieved if girls embrace and excel in subjects, which will eventually enable them engage in science and technology.
It is then obvious that the technologists expected to charter the way through the seemingly indelible task are the current boys and girls in our secondary and higher institutions. It is therefore puzzling that while the country is geared for rapid technological growth, girl’s enrolment in sciences remains alarmingly very low. Well some critics argue that if the issue of gender career stereotyping and biased choice of science subjects is not addressed objectively and with seriousness it deserves, opportunities that would otherwise have been available for female students to advance academically will become foreclosed.
I find such an argument quite obsolete considering the situation in Rwanda.Lest I am misunderstood, I must set facts straight. It is true that the girl child is faced with a lot of challenges; nonetheless, it is equally true that Rwanda has already done her best to make the conditions bearable.It has exceeded the world’s expectations as far as gender equality is concerned. For example, Rwanda has attained gender parity at the level of parliament and is atop all nations by having the highest proportion (56%) of women legislators. The chief concern here is that the conditions are favorable especially in the urban areas: so why are we still having low enrolment in sciences?
Although gender equality in the higher education sector has seen some improvements in students’ enrolment, the average female enrolment continues to revolve around 30% of total students except for humanities and social sciences- disciplines where gender parity is observed. Moreover, stereotypes continue to manifest themselves. For example, nursing and social work programs tend to have large proportions of women while physics, mathematics and engineering programs have low proportions of women. It should be noted that selection to public Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) is not done by the HEIs themselves. Has culture succeeded this much in rooting “fear” in the girls?
Some critics also argue that science, as taught today, is a dehumanizing activity and that girls’ benefit from choosing arts subjects, which allow for greater personal growth. Others suggest that society needs diversity, with a clear distinction between male and female, and that effort to reduce sex differentials are misguided. To this Isay- there is a thin line between pessimism and chauvinism. It is true that society needs diversity but not one created by girls having humanities and boys sciences. Similarly, if science is “dehumanizing” should boys be exposed to such? We cannot afford to quibble over issues as important as these. Girls better make up their minds because they can do sciences.
Simply because someone thinks you are incapable doesn’t make you incapacitated.
Career guidance and counseling should make a significant contribution by impartinga substantial high level of career awareness, which will lead to appropriate career planning and decision making. In today’s world, youth are at crossroads educationally, socially, economically, and in relation to work. There are many challenges facing them in the society and this complexity requires proper guidance.These prevailing challenges are educational, cultural, economic and personal in nature.
In addition, globalization and the continued rising of competitiveness are major challenges for the youth today. As such, provision of guidance in educational institutions is a vital tool that students can use to sort out and order their views and decisions about their intended careers.
The fact is that low female enrolment in science subjects is an immortalsong Rwanda will keep singing if the girls don’t change their attitude. Girls should make the most of the opportunities (nonexistent in other countries) Rwanda is providing.
The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa