It was in recognition of the paradigm shift as it relates to the delivery of education that Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG), a vibrant Non-Governmental Organisation, was forced to put in motion a Gender Awareness Training programme.
The training targeted primarily voluntary teachers and Ministry of Education officials of Region Nine (Lethem, Rupununi) and was undertaken during the latter part of last year. And the three-day intervention was not without notable success as many of the participants have since taken on a new stance as it relates to schooling male and female students.
In fact, according to a report recently released by YCG, many of the teachers were awakened to the fact that gender is no reason for segregation in terms of teaching and eventual career choices.
Throughout the ages, education has been considered the most powerful agent of change thus it has served to help shape individual’s belief and values.
And according to the report one such belief was that women/girls are created for nurturing and caring duties, a situation which largely led to them being excluded from the mainstream education process.
However, the impact of globalisation has motivated Guyana to embark on several initiatives for its developmental process. As a result, efforts have been made through constitutional support, to ensure the equality of men and women in all spheres of development, the report highlights.
Added to this the ratification of several United Nations Conventions and the number of bilateral agreements signed by the local Government, particularly the Millennium Development Goals, make it binding to act, the report further emphasised.
Accordingly, Guyana started embracing a girl-friendly curriculum with methodologies that started taking shape during the 1970s. Promoting the interest of girls became the norm in general classroom practice. While girls generally out-performed boys, at the end of the period of compulsory schooling; they initially showed signs of under-achievement in the areas of Mathematics and Pure Sciences, which are the prerequisites for careers in medicine, the sciences, and engineering.
Boys were evidently out-performing girls in those areas because it was the prevailing view that women were not suited for such careers, the reported asserted.
“The historical underachievement of girls in the aforementioned subject areas coupled with the stereotypical image of women as being only mothers and housewives forced the average female school-leaver into clerical, secretarial and child-care professions.”
But in order to counter that view it became necessary for educators to rethink how education was being delivered. It was against this background that YCG reacted having recognised that educational policies needed to take into consideration not only the notion of access but the quality and outcomes of such processes while at the same time reflecting on gender equality.
As a result, the YCG initiated training programme covered a range of issues that were so informative that participants have since requested a follow-up. The programme started and ended with 12 teachers and Ministry of Education officials.
However, other persons joined in intermittently. “Everyone involved indicated an interest in learning about gender issues with the hope of imparting such knowledge to their colleagues, other teachers and students,” the report detailed. Their response was in fact encouraging to hear since one of the aims of the programme was for each participant to develop a plan of action at the end of the training.
According to the report the participants have claimed that “nothing like that has been done in that area before and it served as an eye-opener to them in helping them to overcome the gender-based challenges confronting them in the classroom.”
On the issue of practical strategies to implement gender equality in the classroom, it was concluded that mainstreaming gender was needful to ensure that no group is left out in the provision of education.
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