Teacher’s Mind: Gender issues should be taken

I wonder if many of you have been noticing the rather high volume of gender related issues that have graced the newspapers lately. One major focus has been the fight against gender based violence.

I wonder if many of you have been noticing the rather high volume of gender related issues that have graced the newspapers lately. One major focus has been the fight against gender based violence.

More recently, the world joined hands to mark the International Women’s Day. Sometimes I really wonder whether teachers do fully understand the impact of their teachings on the future gender relations of a society.

There is a plus in the fact that recently social studies or general paper was introduced in the secondary curriculum and it contains a good volume of material on gender as a subject.

However, without even analysing the whole concept of gender, we can still look at some subtle issues that in essence stand to greatly influence the way learners today will perceive the concept of gender and gender relations in future.

A week ago I quietly sat in one class as the students went about their personal reading during the night preps. My objective was to find out what each student was reading and why. But along the way I noticed something unusual.

The class monitor asked me for permission to address the class. I duly agreed and then he went on to brief them on some of the behaviours that were expected of them as students.

He had just been attending a meeting of student leaders with the deputy headmaster in charge of students’ discipline and was passing on some of the recommendations that had been agreed upon.

To tell the truth I was impressed by this young lad’s leadership qualities. He really spoke with authority and had the audience paying attention to what he had to say.

However, while all this transpired, I suddenly thought of a situation where instead of this lad, a girl was the one addressing the class.

I then quietly asked a student seated next to me to show me the female student leader in the class. Then more and more questions continued to raid my head. 

I wondered whether these students were being brought up to think that a man must always be a leader or whether it was equally possible and fitting for a lady to take charge too.

In time I realised that the whole gender equation is often built or destroyed at this level. Teachers actually have got a very big role to play in nurturing learners as gender sensitive fellows for a better world.

We can use this opportunity to start early and train learners to respect all genders by using gender sensitive language when teaching but also practicing what we preach.

And it is the small things that count here. How many times a teacher uses a male pronoun (he/him) when giving examples as compared to a female pronoun (she/her) can go a long way in forming life long perceptions.

In the year 2009 some teachers are still not ashamed of telling students that ‘a man is the head’ of a family. This is not gospel truth since many men just turn out to be perennial drunkards with no care whatsoever for their families.

There are very many female led families in the world today and we are not just talking about single motherhood. Girls need to be given access to leadership roles early enough for them to understand that it is ok for them to lead as well.

The students’ body ought to have as many boys as girls for the young learners to appreciate early enough the role of gender in society.

Seminars on gender can also go a long way in creating a good foundation for students. Officials from the gender ministry or related organisations should make trips to schools to educate students on different aspects of gender and women issues.

Of much more importance, the message against gender based violence needs to be pitched at these young minds if it is to have any impact. Certainly this is a topic I will return to someday.

Contact: ssenyonga@gmail.com