Discrimination in any form is an unjust behaviour and a human rights concern that threatens the objectives of the South African constitution. Gender discrimination, such as any discrimination is detrimental and poses as a huge concern especially in education as it brings about inequality and unjust treatment in our schools. In this essay, the discussion will be based on gender discrimination as a human rights concern and examine reasons on how it impacts and affects daily teaching and learning and education in all spheres.
Gender discrimination can be viewed as any discrimination based on sex, even though it is mainly associated with females. Gender discrimination occurs in various accounts and spheres. According to Samidha (2008), gender discrimination is profoundly rooted in culture and religion, it is accepted by females and implemented by males as social values, resulting it to influence how gender roles are treated in religious communities, and in schools. Gender discrimination poses as a human rights concern as it threatens the objectives of the bill of rights. Gender equality is at the very heart of human rights, and prohibiting certain rights due to gender differences disturbs the fundamental principle of human rights, and that is to bridge the gap between males and females and providing equal opportunities.
Gender discrimination in education is a great human rights issue. In regards to education, gender inequality in education is can be when learners are denied equal opportunities in education due to gender. When talking about this, gender inequality it is quite obvious that the ones being discriminated are the females. Education is a fundamental right, which should not be restricted to a certain gender, every human being, male or female has a right to education. As gender inequality is deeply rooted in culture, females are constantly denied basic education because they are expected by society to uphold roles in society of staying at home and doing household duties while males are allowed to go to school and even further their studies to tertiary level. This impacts education as there is inequality in schools also due to the unjust allocation of opportunities and violation of female rights to education. Samidha (2008), argues that such discrimination has helped to establish the hierarchical relationship between men and women in the society and also helped to create many rigid gender norms that restrict women’s opportunities and stifle their development in the private and public sphere.
Gender discrimination in education is also rooted in ethnicity. According to Adesina (1982), marriage is not thought to be compatible with continued school attendance and teenage marriage is often seen as a means of maintaining chastity. Families are likely to withdraw their daughters from school as they approach puberty and other parents would more likely refuse to enrol them due to problems they might face when they stay longer in school. Girls are denied access to education because some are married of at an early age. Some go to school as newlyweds, emotionally bruised and unable to focus. This is due to the fact that girls are seen as property to be sold off while boys freely go to school. Some girls are even prohibited to continue schooling after being forced to child marriages denying girls equal opportunities and their constitutional right to education. Luitel, (1992), argues that girls suffer from not just gender discrimination but are also discriminated at school since they are no longer just normal children but are now wives.
Gender-based discrimination also takes place in an environment where learners are supposed to feel at ease and comfortable, and that is at school. Teachers play a huge role at creating a gap between male and female learners, which is a violation of the learners’ rights to education. However, gender-based discrimination does not occur only for females but also, boys are discriminated against in classrooms.
Swann and Graddol (1994) argued that teachers tend to see boys as unruly and disruptive and are more likely to spend time telling them off than helping them with schoolwork. Teachers have lower expectations of boys and so are less inclined to push them hard to achieve high standards. Because of their disruptive behaviour they are more likely to be excluded. Also, teachers discriminate learners based on gender in the classroom by differentiating their roles in class based on societal values. Additionally, educators segregate students in light of sexual orientation in the classroom by separating their parts in class in view of societal values. Females are required to oversee the classroom’s cleanliness while males sit and wait for the classrooms to be cleaned. Females are for the most part viewed as slower than males as far as subjects, for example, maths and science. Males are regularly given consideration in schools and urged to seek after courses in Engineering and accounting henceforth female students are urged to persue, for example, nursing and social work as they are frequently viewed as nurturers and unequipped for seeking after professions in male-dominated fields.
Gender discrimination in an educational context may pose as a human right concern due to poverty. Young girls are denied access to education due to disadvantaged backgrounds. Girls are forced to become parents in households and drop out of school in order to provide for their families, look after their younger siblings and perform household chores while the boys in the family are given an opportunity to continue school. This mostly due to the societal hierarchy that is enforced in communities until girls accept and perform their roles and forfeit their opportunities of utilising their constitutional right to education. Child fostering has become a common practice through which young females are made to shoulder the economic burdens of their families by working as domestic and housemaids in middle- and upper-class homes for a fee or in exchange for physical maintenance, clothing, healthcare, and in some cases educational support. According to Ardayfio-Schandorf and Amissah (1996), child fostering is a prevalent means of easing the burden of parents who cannot cope with childcare responsibilities and it is predominant among low-income families. In this case, it is not only gender-based discrimination that hinders the right to education but also poverty contributes into making gender-based discrimination a human rights concern.
Governments must make girls’ education a priority by creating efficient and well-established government departments and in addition provide resources specifically for overseeing the enrolment and process of maintaining girls in school. Various initiatives must be accompanied by intensive and supportive learning environments, qualified, motivated and well-paid teachers, and the availability of instructional and gender-appropriate resources and curricula. In addressing inequality in education, there is the need for the governmental provision of adequate educational facilities and qualified teaching personnel and resources to meet the needs of disadvantaged school children with learning disabilities and other social issues. In addition, equitable representation of heroic women in textbooks should be another way of influencing girls to perceive themselves as equally capable of doing well as their male counterparts. According to Marie and Sossou (2008), the concept and spreading of sexism takes its root from the negative representation of women in textbooks as only mothers, wives and low-status workers. Most girls in school internalize these stereotypical female behaviour role models as depicted in the textbooks and as women they neither question the unequal gender division of labour at home nor the concept of the so-called gender-appropriate jobs. According to Jayaweera (1999), the stereotypic representation of women in textbooks as housewives, traders and low-income workers in government establishments contributes to the high dropout rate of girls in South Africa.
To breach the gap between males and females, parents, especially illiterate parents in both rural and urban communities, should be held responsible and accountable for their children’s basic education. Parents must be held responsible and accountable for their female children’s enrolment and retention in schools until they complete at least 12 years of basic education. This process should involve school districts making parents to commit to signing formal agreements to make sure their children, most especially the female children, stay in school, and parents should be held accountable for the breach of parental educational contracts if their children fail to complete their basic primary education.