|Redressing Gender Inequalities in Education - A Review of Constraints and Priorities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe (DFID, 1995, 89 p.)|
|CHAPTER 5: POLICY OPTIONS: AN OVERVIEW|
In cultural settings where male/female contact is limited and tightly defined, it is generally the case that the recruitment of female teachers enhances girls enrolments. Several studies using international cross sectional data have found a positive correlation between the proportion of women teachers and size of female school enrolment (Herz et al 1991, Rockerfeller Foundation, 1995). However, this broad statistical picture needs to be unpacked at the national and regional level. As we have seen in Malawi, women teachers do not necessarily have better pedagogical practices than men nor are they more supportive of girl students even though they have more subjective understanding of the 'double burden' of school and domestic work.
In Bangladesh, World Bank funded projects have been part of successful packages to raise the enrolment of girls. Women teachers are popular in schools because of the very strict separation of the sexes required by religious and cultural norms. These conditions are not exactly the same in Africa where girls do have more relative freedom of movement. However, as we have seen, the level of sexual harassment surrounding schooling and risks involved in unwanted pregnancies and HIV are of obvious concern to many African parents. Although the reasons for drop out in our three countries have been by no means exhaustively researched, fear for girls' safety and security is in many cases a very important factor preventing particularly rural households from sending girls to school and keeping them there. The security issue also causes delays in sending girls to school if they are required to travel long distances.
It is undoubtedly the case that in a predominantly female environment, the girls and their parents feel more secure about their education and the girls perform better academically. At the present time, single sex schools, run mainly by women teachers and women heads, are able to boost performance of girls but this must be seen as a short term solution to the problem.
The positive impact of women teachers depends on the environment in which they are working and whether they have been effectively trained. However, the training of all teachers, from a gender perspective is crucial to changing attitudes in the school and community and is likely to have a greater impact than community awareness campaigns in the short and long term. It could well be that the positive impact of having women heads might be even greater than women teachers in terms of providing a secure environment for girls' learning. Experience in Africa has shown that when these conditions are present and there are not financial constraints, parents do not hesitate to send their girls to school.