The importance of female teachers for girls’ education
Meet Suwaiba Yunusa, the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School, in Roni (Jigawa State), Nigeria
Suwaiba Yunusa, 29, is the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School located in Roni, Jigawa State, in Nigeria. In addition to teaching, she is an important role model to her female students.
November 08, 2016 by GPE Secretariat|
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Suwaiba Yunusa, 29, is the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School located in Roni, Jigawa State, in Nigeria.

“You could talk to her, but she has already gone home today,” says Headmaster Shaaibu Hassan. He adds: “There aren’t many female teachers in the state so we are fortunate to have even one.”

The many benefits of female teachers

Talking with Shaaibu and the rest of the teachers who have crowded into his office, it becomes obvious that, as the only female member of staff, Suwaiba is far more than just another teacher:

“When they know there is a female teacher in the school, parents are easily convinced to send their girls to school,” says one teacher.

“When the girls see her coming sometimes they start chanting her name. I think it’s because they are so happy to see someone who is like them,” says another.

“The girls feel much freer with a woman teacher. They talk so much more openly in class,” says a third.

“And they need someone they can talk to about any issues they are facing,” Shaaibu adds.

More girls come to school if their teacher is a woman

When she comes to school the next day, Suwaiba herself adds to the list of benefits a female teacher brings to a school, especially as girls grow up and enter puberty: “In our culture, it is inappropriate for male teachers to help the older girls one on one; they are also limited in their ability to discipline the older girls. But a female teacher—like a mother—can discipline a child of any gender and any age.”

And of course, she is on hand to deal with the expected challenges that come up around older girls and menstruation that her male colleagues only laughed nervously about when asked the previous day.

But Suwaiba recognizes that perhaps her most important function is as a role model:

“Growing up I had two women teachers. I remember thinking I wanted to be like them. Now I am. So I know how important it is when the girls come up to me and say, ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher like you.’”

Girls face many barriers to education

Nigeria is home to 20% of the world’s out of school children, and in Northern Nigerian states like Jigawa, the majority of out-of-school children are girls.

The literature confirms what Suwaiba and her male colleagues know from experience: increasing the number of female teachers is one way to get more girls into school, and to keep them there.

This is especially true in parts of the world where cultural barriers make it difficult to send girls to school. And in this context, girls who report having positive female role models in school are more likely to stay in school.

In Nigeria, there are too few female teachers

In Nigeria, the US$100 million GPE grant works to expand access to basic education for female students, and promote gender equality. But keeping female teachers in the schools that need them can prove another matter.

“Last year, I was so happy,” says Suwaiba. “There were two other female teachers assigned to this school. We would work together to do exercises with the children.

We would meet between classes and talk about whatever problems we faced in the classroom.

“This year, because there are so few female teachers around, they were transferred to other schools. Now, honestly, I don’t enjoy coming to school anymore. I feel so lonely and isolated. The male teachers all sit together and talk in the shade. Culturally, there is no way I can sit and talk with them. And there is no staff room where I can go and sit. So between classes I just wander here and there by myself with no one to talk to. I am thinking about leaving. I told the headmaster that if they can’t bring in another female teacher soon, I want to transfer to another school.

A portion of GPE’s grant is being used to increase the number of qualified female teachers by providing scholarships to approximately 11,000 female teachers to upgrade their qualifications and encourage them to stay in schools.

“I keep thinking about the future. I know that someday, as more and more girls go to school and complete their education, there will be more of us. I can’t wait for that day to come.” 
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Girls' Education, Teachers
Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria

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Comments

Dear Suwaiba, Please reconsider your request to move to a school where you will have more female colleagues. Like salt, perhaps the biblical 'salt of the earth', you are playing a crucial role, and need to stay sprinkled if you are to savour the daily fare of Nigerian education. Like salt, your value is not in lumps or clusters, but as a beacon which raises hope around you. With best wishes, Maureen

Even as a blog, the case needs to be made objectively. The issue in this case is not culture but religion, or is Islam a cultural tradition rather than a religious belief? All qualified and interested teachers are important in girls' education, not just female teachers. In this case, the female teacher is functioning more as a social worker than a teacher. That is the role that communities play; the school is a formal setting and there is nothing cultural about it. It amazes me how we confuse culture with anything that not modern. In ordinary sectarian schools, learners mix and so teachers. Female teachers are normally assigned to teacher lower grades - a role similar to motherhood, while male teachers teach higher grades and in critical (for success) subjects. In all my over 40 years in schools, I have not heard of any learner who wanted to be a teacher, let alone a female teacher. Teaching is a lower paid job, just like the mother' job and it is only undertaken by men when the economy is bad or still basic. Female teachers are not any more generous or caring than male teachers. In some cases research evidence shows female teachers to be the worst abusers of intelligent but pretty girls. It is a myth that female teachers are role models. We need to stop perpetuating it or really show it to be so.

Thank you for your comments. GPE recognizes the importance of all teachers, and supports further recruitment and training so that all teachers can deliver quality education to boys and girls. Research has shown that female teachers are particularly important for improving girls’ ability to go to school, stay in school, and learn effectively while there (for example, see this article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11159-014-9450-0). This especially true in contexts where traditional gender norms result in parents being reluctant to send their daughters to a school without female teachers, or male teachers being discouraged from interacting with female students. For more information on the state of girls’ education and evidence-based approaches to improving it, we recommend the recent Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review: unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002460/246045e.pdf and What Works in Girls’ Education https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/whatworksingirlseducation1.pdf from the Brookings Institution.

My name is Tiye (Male). I am from UNCIEF Ethiopia. I just want to reflect on my experience on the importance of having female teachers preferable to male counterparts. As education officer, I undertake a lot of travels to schools and visit classrooms. In most of my classroom supervision, I found out that female teachers are more caring to the children, caring, have organized documentation and classroom setting than males. My recent visit to one school in rural areas calumniated my strong stand of having females as teachers. The chairperson of the parent teacher association told us that it has never been the case in his so long experience as a chairperson that disciplinary case brought to his attention associated with misconduct and less commitment to teach by female teachers. On the other hand, repeated allegation were tabled against male teachers even though the number of male teachers is much lower than female teachers in that particular school. Especially in society like Ethiopia, where social norms are all in favor of males, having female teachers is indispensably valuable- as role models, able to exercise the same heart females have for their children as mothers, experience in having an organized life style, etc.

My name is Tiye (Male). I am from UNCIEF Ethiopia. I just want to reflect on my experience on the importance of having female teachers preferable to male counterparts. As education officer, I undertake a lot of travels to schools and visit classrooms. In most of my classroom supervision, I found out that female teachers are more caring to the children, caring, have organized documentation and classroom setting than males. My recent visit to one school in rural areas calumniated my strong stand of having females as teachers. The chairperson of the parent teacher association told us that it has never been the case in his so long experience as a chairperson that disciplinary case brought to his attention associated with misconduct and less commitment to teach by female teachers. On the other hand, repeated allegation were tabled against male teachers even though the number of male teachers is much lower than female teachers in that particular school. Especially in society like Ethiopia, where social norms are all in favor of males, having female teachers is indispensably valuable- as role models, able to exercise the same heart females have for their children as mothers, experience in having an organized life style, etc.

Most of the time we think that any country should take presedence over having female teacher because female teachers are more close to boys as well as girl in any kind of school.

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