October 5th, World Teachers’ Day, is worth celebrating, simply because it acknowledges teachers.
The day is celebrated annually to recognise the essential role that teachers play in providing quality education. This year’s theme for the day is “Teachers for Gender Equality.” Teachers play such a critical role when it comes to Rwanda’s ‘Education for All’—a programme that will make access to education available for every Rwandan child.
We can simply not talk of ‘Education for All’ without factoring in gender challenges that exclude girls from getting a decent education. This is due to the fact that in many developing countries there is a shortage of female teachers particularly at secondary and tertiary levels. There is thus an urgent need for capacity development geared towards correcting this imbalance.
As we celebrate World Teachers Day, it is important to think about this year’s theme and how gender equality can be achieved among educational institutions. It is quite useless for policy makers to embark on fostering the education of girls yet there are a scanty number of female teachers.
A UNESCO report titled, ‘Impact of Women Teachers on Girls’ Education reveals a number of worthwhile issues on the role women teachers have on girls’ enrolment. It also talks of the need to empower women to better perform their roles as teachers.
Female teachers should be facilitated to access relevant teacher training if they are to compete and rise in the teaching ranks. The work of female teachers has a sustained impact on gender relations in schools and the society at large. There is need to support and encourage female teachers to be effective and inspire teachers for both boys and girls.
Rwanda has been credited for being a very gender supportive establishment with policies that have seen the country earning the status of one with the highest number of female legislators in the world. It is only right and fitting if the same is done in the education sector with a clear policy towards recruitment of more female teachers at all levels.
There are conservative societies where parents will not allow their daughters to be taught by a male teacher such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In such places the placement of a female teacher in a school will have far reaching and positive results.
More importantly the presence of more female teachers in our schools would change society’s stereotypes about the role of women. When girls see female teachers, they are bound to accept the reality that there is a future for them besides being housewives.
A school with more female teachers is also a good environment for girls who are now assured of a listening ear from a person who really understands their problems. Female teachers are more likely to be advocates for girls when it comes to matters of adolescent reproductive health, better toilet and washing facilities.
The dilemma is that in some schools where female teachers are present, they are often relegated to lower status positions thus excluding them from vital decision making opportunities.
Female teachers are needed to balance and correct gender based challenges in schools. It will be a waste to have more girls in schools dominated by male teachers. As we celebrate the role played by teachers worldwide, I hope we learn to respect and facilitate them to continue doing a good job.