Studies indicate that there are more female teachers in nursery and lower primary than in upper primary secondary and tertiary levels of education. The reasons for this vary in different countries.
In Rwanda statistics from the Ministry of Education show that there are more female than male teachers in nursery and lower primary schools.
There is a huge difference in percentages with 67.8 per cent and 32.2 per cent of female and male teachers respectively, teaching in nursery schools.
According to Ismael Javier Gasana, the Director of Primary and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education headquarters (MINEDUC), many men are not inspired to teach very young children because they need an enormous amount of individual attention.
“Young children need a lot of attention. Every minute one child after another needs to be taken to the toilet, helped to sit on it and dressed up thereafter, they need to be comforted, played with and listened to. Men generally do not feel comfortable doing this. Women however, feel more comfortable attending to all these needs,” said Gasana.
Further still, the director said that the large number of female teachers in lower classes is also attributed to the reluctance of female teachers in teaching difficult courses in upper primary.
“This is basically an issue where female teachers avoid teaching difficult courses like mathematics and elementary science and technology, which are introduced in upper primary classes. They leave this for the men preferring the easy going lower classes,” Gasana said.
In some situations there are incidents of children especially young boys who lack father-figures in their lives until the pre-teen age of 12 years. This, he said could have negative social effects on the development of a boy’s personality.
Since men usually display authority and firm decision making, the lack of male teachers in lower classes can cause a complexity where boys become afraid to make tough decisions and do things on their own.
Though, many critics say men avoid working with young children because of the idea that it’s “women’s work”, other men do not think so.
Ken Agaba who teaches the less than five year-olds, beginners Sunday school class at Christian Life Assembly, is one of the few teachers who chooses to differ from this line of thought. He says it is very important for children, particularly young ones, to see men as role models at an early age.
“Just like any other profession, men teachers play an important role in modeling young children’s characters and self confidence. Children should be exposed to their role models and since most are taught by women, boys grow up with their minds locked and think teaching young children is only a profession for women,” Agaba said.
He further said that being a father gives him the ambition and desire to teach young children. Besides this, the whole experience is something where men can learn from children by understanding their language, way of thinking and the issues that affect them.
“Being a teacher is a process of learning and I encourage other men to get involved in things their children do. Otherwise, how will they know that what they are being taught is important, in my case God, since I am a Sunday school teacher.” he said.
Therefore, there is a need for men to get involved in important issues that affect their children’s lives instead of leaving women to do this alone.
According to Emile Ruberwa, the Public Relations and Communication Officer of MINEDUC, the ministry has not yet seriously looked and discussed the problems associated with less male teachers in lower classes in detail.
However, Ruberwa said that this situation is both in urban and rural schools in Rwanda and needs to be addressed. He further cited that there was no reason for men not to teach younger children since all teachers are provided with equal opportunities during trainings and recruitment.
“The decision to teach or not to teach young children is made by the teachers. However just like a family, young children need affection from both male and female teachers for balanced upbringing,” Ruberwa said.
With the various developments in the education sector, the Rwandan Government should do more to promote the importance of lower class school teachers as a way to get more men to choose it as a career.
Through increasing teacher’s wages more men will be encouraged to teach young children hence create a balance. Since both male and female authority figures play an important role in the development of young people, the teaching workforce will be able to fully reflect the strengths of our diverse society.