New Era (Windhoek)

6 February 2013

Namibia: Gender Bias Blights Education

Windhoek — According to the SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer women feature strongest in the arts, humanities and health sciences, where nursing is incorporated, while they are less often present within the disciplines of science or law, the world over.

The report is sponsored by the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance and coordinated by Gender Links. Some arguments are that these gender divisions in education reflect the "natural" paths that women and men opt to follow.

Another study entitled "Gender Socialisation in the Home: Its Impact on Boys' Achievement in Primary and secondary Schools", found that although boys considerably enjoyed more physical freedom than girls, they are expected to conform to more rigid gender stereotyping, which adversely affect their academic and social development, strongly linked to homophobic fears.

This is while girls are freer to cross the gender divides (except where career choice was concerned), they were more protected by parents and had less leisure compared to boys, creating a more favourable condition for learning and academic success.

The World Bank-funded study further revealed mothers were found to be the main disciplinarians, reinforcing these gender stereotypes, whilst many fathers felt marginalised from the family and support services.

"In the region, the statistics are generally analogous. As children, boys and girls learn that certain subjects are off limits to them. Consequently, as they grow up and pursue higher education and careers, these stereotypes continue," the report states.

This, it noted, also influences girls becoming teachers, what subjects they may have the authority to speak on and the cycle continues when they as role models are living out the very same labels that were presented to them as children. There are however a few exceptions in the SADC region when it comes to the percentage of women in law faculties.

In the majority of SADC countries, law is largely male dominated, but there are interesting exceptions such as Namibia, Mauritius and Lesotho, where there is almost gender parity between female and male enrolment in the law faculty. In Mauritius 62 percent of women are enrolled in the law faculty, compared to 38 percent men.

In Namibia, 52 percent of women are enrolled, while 48 percent men are enrolled in the law faculty. When it comes to the faculty of science, men are dominating with the exception of Mauritius, which seems to be overall doing very well in gender parity, among member countries.

Links were made between better academic performance and families which uphold egalitarian views, families where the biological father was present and where both parents were involved in the child's learning. However, in Mauritius, according to the SADC gender parity model, boys and girls at lower secondary level study the same subjects. At upper secondary level, they choose from more or less the same options in the science, economics and humanities streams.

The only exception is the technical stream, whereby Design and Technology is offered in boys' schools whereas girls' schools propose Food Studies and Design and Textiles. However, some mixed schools and private schools offer same choice of subjects to both boys and girls. In Madagascar, men are 70 percent of the senior professors and researchers. In the schools of arts and humanities and of medicine, women are beginning to emerge as a majority at lower levels. In the arts and humanities, they are 57 percent of associate professors and researchers and in the medical school, women are 55 percent of senior lecturers and 50 percent of assistant lecturers and researchers.

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