By Monica Brown

Greetings to all.

Yes, we are continuing our talks on an unspoken truth that many countries are grappling with. Increasing number of laws and policies promotes gender equality in education on paper, but still often fails in practice.

We acknowledge and agree that policy interventions can reduce the chance of education disadvantage being passed on to the next generation.

Let us unpack what possible actions or recommendations can be looked at to banish gender inequality and GBV for good, especially in our schools and in the education sector as a whole.

Countries across the globe embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) worldwide.SDG 4 is the education goal that aims to ensure inclusivity and equity in education. SDG 5 aims again to promote gender equality as a whole coupled with the empowerment of women.

Part 1 of the article looked at the legislative side or rather the policing and monitoring side of gender equality in the education sector in South Africa.

While a gender equality monitoring department or division coupled with the statutory body called Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), is in place, it looks from the outside that all of these structures lacks authority and clout to enforce gender equality as their mandates are largely advisory.The powerlessness is further made stronger by staff that don’t have a sound knowledge of gender issues.This in turn will let staff see the implementation of gender systems as an added responsibility and not a priority or call to action. I stand to be corrected but that is only my personal view.

As previously noted, educators are positioned to play a key role in ensuring gender equality in the schools.Most educators lack the capacity to address the inequalities encountered by learners at schools due to lack of knowledge or training and in some cases because of their own personal experiences.

I am a completely solution driven person and my main goal in discussing these unspoken truths is to inform, educate and look at solutions with individuals and communities at large.

Please note that these recommendations only stem from what is happening currently in communities and what some organisations are doing.

Recommendation 1:

Definitely there should be an improvement in the coordination between government departments dealing with girls and women’s well-being, care, development and empowerment.This should not only happen at a national level , but should filter down to local government level, district level and straight to community or grassroots level.This would create a more strategic approach on how to deal with gender issues. The broader community, involving churches and community organisational structures should be made involved so that the education sector can achieve their gender equality goals.

Just to explain how important it is for all to work together, I will make the following example.

Scenario: Jenny, a 12 year old disabled, foster child gets sexually assaulted by a fellow male student on her way to school.Jenny is closer to school than her home , go directly to the teacher on duty on the playground of the school.

I will just show how many departments is to get involved and at what level to ensure that the experience that Jenny had is dealt with in a professional and decent way so that she does not experience any gender inequalities along the way.Please be aware that every department mentioned have the relevant policies and guidelines in place to ensure that Jenny gets the help or assistance she deserves.

Step 1: Jenny reports incident to teacher on duty. Teacher have the choice to assist or not assist.(Teacher represents the Department of Basic Education)

Step 2: Jenny must report the incident to the local police station as it is a violent crime that was committed to her.Will the police officer on duty assist Jenny in the correct way? Will she feel comfortable to tell her story?(The police officer represents the Department of Police)

Step 3: Jenny must be taken to the hospital to get examined and the J88 form to be completed to ensure that all evidence are gathered related to the crime committed.Will Jenny be handled in a decent and human way by the nursing staff and the doctor that will examine her?Will she be subjected to any comments that is made to make her feel like she was asking for what happened?(Medical staff represents the Department of Health)

Step 4: Jenny is a disabled foster child and her foster parents has to inform the social worker about the incident.Will the social worker be too busy to come and check up on Jenny and will she give the foster parents the support to get them through this difficult time?(The social worker represents the Department of Social Development and will have to also report this incident to the Department of Women, children and Disabilities)

Step 5: Criminal procedure starts. Jenny must be prepared for court and must get support to be able to do that.Will Jenny get offered counselling by the investigating officer and will the magistrate and prosecutor protect her by allowing her to testify in camera as she is a minor?Will she be treated according to the Victim Charter? (The magistrate and prosecutor represents the Department of Constitutional development and Justice)

Step 6: The perpetrator gets convicted and serve time but he will be released on parole soon. The parole board must contact Jenny’s parents and all involved as this might be a very dangerous decision to release him without informing her.(The parole officer represents the Department of Correctional Services)

Step 7: Was any follow up done by the school psychologist or the social worker to check how Jenny been coping with what trauma she went through? Did any teacher keep a close eye on Jenny to see if she had any behavioural changes? Was any report submitted to anywhere by anyone about this incident? Is the police docket the only form of report that exist?What will be recorded when Jenny never returns to school due to depression? Will any follow up be done?

This is why so many cases of gender based violence do not get reported. No coordination, no support, no aftercare and no form of letting the victim know that they did the right thing to report.There should be a flow of information and a complete flow of records available showing how the victim got helped. Coordination is key in ensuring that gender inequality and REAL GBV stats gets recorded.

Recommendation 2:

There should be consistent monitoring of the set of targets of gender equality in the education sector. The sporadic and incidental approach to checking if all goals are still being met should stop.Reports from established and well recognised humanitarian and gender equality focused organisations, should be taken into account and discussed.We need to start learning from one another and not work against each other.

Recommendation 3:

Schools are part and parcel of the communities they operate in.Every school’s gender issues are normally only an extension of what social attitudes and practices are found within that wider society.We definitely need more meaningful parental and community engagement.Gender equality issues must be jointly discussed and solutions must be tabled jointly.

Recommendation 4:

Teachers must reflect critically on their attitudes and values related to gender equality and should develop empathy towards students.This is really the elephant in the room because educators are the enforcers of the policies and the guidelines. Some educators see themselves as social influencers, dancing and making Tiktok videos when they should be attending to the students needs.Some educators are like real elephants, stubborn, not open to change and on a high moral ground.

You are in the wrong profession is you feel that you are better than other people or you too high and mighty.No student will come close to telling you anything.

The pre and post verification of qualifications and personal wellbeing, assessment and skills audits of educators should be done regularly. I know some miracle teachers will appear from that audit indeed.

Recommendation 5:

Leadership development programs for students and with a partial involvement of parents will benefit schools tremendously. Training these leaders on gender sensitive issues, equipping them with skills to empower themselves and their fellow students.Note that these students must not be chosen by school management teams but rather by the learners themselves through a democratic elective process. That way no favouritism can be applied and more cooperation will be given by the students.

Recommendation 6:

School specific gender equality protocols or guidelines coupled with goals should be developed by school management teams , communities , leadership teams as well as other stakeholders. This way everybody knows what role they play to ensure gender equality in their school. The guidelines and policies set out by the Department of Education should serve as guidelines to develop their own at school level.

Recommendation 7:

Gender responsive school counselling programs to be implemented and that will surely improve the balance in subject choices as well. Counsellors often promote gender stereotypes, which affect students’ education and career choices in the end.

Final Thought:

Championing gender equality and inclusion in education is a job for everyone and anyone.For gender equality to be achieved, men must support it as well as women.While many boys and men resist change in gender relations, others may welcome it.

If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous. The highest result of education is tolerance.Men should welcome this as the dependence of women on men for security will also give them a chance to breath and not worry about making money all the time.

Monica Brown, Changemaker, Activist And Social Entrepreneur, CRW NEWS Freelance Columnist

Article Reproduced with Permission from Monica Brown

To view the original article by Monica Brown on LinkedIn visit here

We hope you enjoyed the article, there will be more regular weekly articles from Monica Brown coming soon.