The Importance Of Having Feminist Women In Education and Schools

One of my favourite short story collections by a Nigerian woman definitely is Better Never Than Late which was written by Chika Unigwe, the Nigerian feminist novelist and poet.

It is a short story collection that explores themes like immigration, grief and what it means to be a woman in a place that is not Nigeria.

In one of the most poignant stories there called Ready For Takeoff, a woman had at first abandoned lucrative job opportunities in Nigeria to follow her husband to Belgium. 

On getting there, circumstances saw both of them not living up to their full potential. Eventually, she left him and decided to take up a better teaching position in London, England. It is also worthy to note that her husband denied her the right to see her daughter post divorce.

What was sadly interesting was this. The daughter in question told her father that she wanted to be a teacher but would not because Black people aren’t teachers. She said this casually and she said this because they lived in a predominantly white environment.

This was the moment when her father decided it was time for mother and daughter to reconnect. It saddened him that although his ex wife was earning well from being a teacher, their daughter could not conceptualise doing what her mother was doing.

I have provided this backdrop to show how important representation in the school system is for young children.

Now, the backdrop I provided speaks on the power of race representation. However, I will take it a step further and say that there is incredible power in young girls having feminist minded school teachers and educationists as it encourages them to dream and to own their voice without fear.

A young girl who went to a school that had a teacher who actively spoke against gender inequality and advocated for the education of the girl child, is more likely to grow up into a woman who sees women in leadership positions as normal and very natural.

Even more, women and girls who had Biology teachers that taught them about puberty and menstrual cycles with none of the shame that is often attached to both, is in a more equipped position to feel confident about her body when seeing a doctor. The case will be different if she was a girl who went to a school where the only sex education received was an abstinence only and purity based curriculum.

In the area of curriculums, we cannot underestimate the necessity of feminist minded women in the educational sector.

There are lots of African countries that frown heavily on comprehensive sex education. In Nigeria, young girls who get pregnant in schools are often made to drop out and little children are literally taught gender roles from as early as nursery school.

Feminist minded women are needed in the educational system to make it more equitable for women and girls at any educational level. They are needed to ensure that women and teenagers who get pregnant do not become walking statistics of people who due to children did not finish their education.

To better understand the importance of feminist minded women in education and schools, I spoke to a few women.

Eni-afe, a schoolteacher and feminist based in Nigeria is of the belief that feminist minded women in the educational system can step in for female students even in areas that may not seem connected to education.

In her words: “Feminist minded women are needed in the educational system to help input contents that will be tailored to the needs of the female child of today. 

I was never a teacher/ lecturer person as I didn’t want to get close to them at all and my project supervisor, who was a female, was really terrible to me. All these just made me resolve to be an unbiased yet kind but strict teacher who will cater for students especially girls because they are disadvantaged most times. I have a girl in my class whose guardian beats at the slightest misdeed. I interfered and involved the school authority. The guardian got threatened with the law and the state. Fathia is treated better although the guardian is still hurt at the role I played but I’m glad I could help.”

She went on to say: “As a Literature – in – English teacher, I must commend the Lagos State Ministry of education for including feminist themed texts to the scheme of work. Some of which are Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen (previous read) and Elma Shaw’s Redemption Road (present read). Both possess strong female leads with determination to achieve their goals despite the odds that don’t deter them but rather strengthen their resolves. These books have helped me motivate and encourage my girls in class. They have further aided me in educating my boys that females aren’t beneath them and violence is never the solution and that ‘No means No’.

Regarding gender inequality, we just need to keep sensitizing society. We should never for once tune down our voices.”

For Janet, she relayed how it was a woman in her school that helped her overcome some difficulties she was facing.

To quote her: “My Head of Department refused my supervision during teaching practice.

I was left hanging because I am the ‘you can’t bully my kind of girl’. Everyone knew me and thought I was doing too much.

I reached out to different people to no avail, I was told to continue praying that he changes his mind.

The school I was working in then did all they could, the owner of the school who was a graduate of my school invited a female professor over. She wanted to know if I turned down his offer or something.

The only issue was that I was a threat to his school sons who were campaigning then. I used to be in the school press.

It was the female professor who helped. She took my hand in hers and led me to her own boss who was a friend to my HOD.

I was supervised the second day.”

Speaking with Doyin, a writer and feminist, she explains that feminist women in the educational sector ensure that girls do not see themselves as less.

In her words: “In a world where girls are told to be less, I’m genuinely happy that I passed through some of the best female lecturers. There’s this particular female professor in my department, Prof. Oloruntoba-Oju, that many of us(including male lecturers) feared. She moves like Lady Danbury, but that woman>>>>>

She hates inequality like mad, loves female empowerment, and carries women’s matter on her head like gele. There was a time when a male lecturer made a certain misogynistic comment, and she hushed him.

In 200l, she taught us theatre. During one of the rehearsals, she said my acting didn’t impress her. I started to cry, and the next thing I heard was, ‘You are crying, instead of you to try harder and prove me wrong.’ Walai, I actually did better.

She, alongside some female lecturers, taught us Feminism in our 4th year, and to be honest, they are the reason I think about teaching too.”

Representation matters. Seeing is indeed believing for women and girls.

Feminist women in the educational sector ensure that women and girls are not only represented in the best way possible, but that we get to see ourselves and our aspirations as normal.

It is therefore important that young girls who aspire to jobs in and out of the educational sector are encouraged by teachers who are pro women at the very root.

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