This post is the 11th in a blog series published in 2019 in the context of a collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
In 1995 at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls. The Beijing Declaration is the first to specifically call out girls’ rights.
On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
This year, under the theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable”, we celebrate achievements by, with and for girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Impact of teachers on a child’s life
Teachers are often significant players in the early development of children. They are key to achieving equitable and inclusive education systems that deliver learning. They also take up the guardian role when children attend school right from early childhood education to university.
This essentially means that teachers have the power to influence how children think, act, perceive, interpret, and articulate thoughts and experiences in the early stages of life. Even in adulthood, people will remember a punishment or praise that their teachers gave them in their school days.
In the book ‘Becoming’ Michelle Obama – former US first lady and founder of the Let Girls Learn Initiative – recalls how embarrassed she felt when she could not pronounce the word ‘white’ in an English class prompting her teacher to order Michelle to sit back down.
“I was sure my teacher had now pegged me as someone who could not read or, worse, did not try to” writes Michelle Obama. A hot-cheeked young Michelle further narrates how the two best pupils in her class could literally read everything correctly, making her conclude that her inability to read ‘white’ appropriately could have been “a sign that the two were marked for greatness when the rest of them were not.”
Closer to home in Africa, renowned author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her book ‘We should all be Feminists’ underscores how African education systems have reinforced gender biases and discrimination towards girls.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the men”, writes Ms. Adichie.
While some may disagree with Chimamanda and other writers on the gender bias of the education we deliver to children, and especially in Africa, it is imperative that we do not ignore teaching practices that may consciously or unconsciously ingrain gender discrimination, bias and reinforce patriarchy in children’s way of life and thinking.