15 September 2017

Ethiopia: Will More Women Climb Education Leadership Ladder?

Ministry of Education has planned to increase the share of women leadership in education by 25 percent this fiscal year. However, the viability of the goal relays on all stakeholders' concerted efforts in overcoming the potential challenges facing women educational leaders, researchers comment.

Indeed, such ambitious plan enhances women's educational leadership role. But, the efforts should go much more than creating enabling condition for them to come to the leadership position, says Hana Chernet who attempted to explore some of the factors responsible for female underrepresentation in educational leadership in her graduate thesis.

The reasons which deter women both from stepping up the ladder of leadership and being competitive as leaders have deep roots in the community and organizations, she says, adding the deterrents should clearly be identified and tackled.

"The society has stereotyped women as "incapable" to assume organizational leadership in general, and held a belief that women's work is caring for family."

When it comes to educational leadership in particular, there has also been additional problem--lack of transparency with regards to the selection and appointment of female education leaders, she adds. "This could be a problem relating to organizational bias."

Such and other relating problems are excess recipes to make women less confident and more reluctant in assuming leadership position at schools, colleges and universities, she adds. "Men counterparts' inadequate support to women who are already in leadership position is also no fewer barriers to come to senior educational positions.

With due understanding to the societal attitude towards women, the empowerment of women in all spheres of life has been made to start at grassroots level, says Elsabet Gesese, Gender Directorate Director with the Ministry.

"This includes encouraging them to peruse their education by applying various affirmative measures and joining hands with pertinent stakeholders to help more female students complete their studies," she notes.

For instance, out of 136, 540 students who have successfully passed National University Entrance Examination last academic year, over 58,000 of them are female students. Of which, 7,879 have benefited from the pre-affirmative measure.

Female university students also get post-affirmative benefits such as tutorials and financial supports. The latter support is for female students who are from less well-off families.

She further goes on to say that the supports at all levels have brought about encouraging results. Female leadership rate at primary schools has reached 37 percent from almost none two decades ago, she adds.

"As far as women's academic leadership is concerned, there is huge improvement in pre-primary and primary schools. The participation of women in educational leadership before 1991 was almost none," Elsabet argues, adding "the Ministry is working to upsurge the leadership involvement of women in higher learning institutions.

"The current plan -increment of women leadership share- has also emulated the best practices secured at pre-primary and primary levels," Elsabet stresses.

She also makes clear that the plan is part and parcel of the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTPII).

The GTP II aims at empowering significant number women by creating enabling condition to them to come to the leadership. "So, we will have more women principals and presidents in high schools and universities by the end of the GTP II.

As part of this effort, 14 female leaders have already been assigned this year as vice presidents in all public universities, the director reveals.

A school principal in one of the public primary schools found in Addis Ababa also comments on the issue under the condition of anonymity. She has this to say: "I'm one of the female education leaders in Addis Ababa. The policies, strategies and programs of the country, by and large, encourage women. But, the leadership circle is male dominated, thus, there is little room for us to be understood."

She adds: "If more females assume senior leadership positions, it is very likely for us to be understood in times of challenging situations such as antennal period."

She suggests that all stakeholders and the gender directorates of educational institutions should be vibrant in identifying gaps and filling them more quickly.

Dr. Guday Emire is Cultural Anthropologist with the Addis Ababa University. She underscores that women in general have unbearable social burdens. For her, discarding the social burden is fundamental to bring more female to the leadership.

When any organization plans to empower women, it is appropriate to take the harmful and [discouraging] attitudes as well as practices prevailing among the community into consideration, she argues. In so doing, the attitudes and practices could be identified and mitigated.

It is true that involving women in the educational leadership can have ample returns for the community, thus, every stakeholder has a responsibility of supporting this section of the society.

Having understood that women are half the society, the government has been implementing sound policies which ensure gender equality and women's empowerment in political, economic and social aspects of the country. But, the implementation is not left for the government alone; families, civil associations, non-governmental organizations and other concerned bodies should contribute their shares. If all pertinent bodies cooperate, the Ministry's plan-- increasing women leadership share by 25-percent this fiscal year, would seem to turn to reality.

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