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EDUCATION

Narrowing the gender gap in teaching profession

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EDUCATION is more than getting pupils to accumulate academic knowledge. It is also about helping children to become rounded individuals. In this context, it is important that children should be taught by teachers who are representatives of our diverse society. Given that many children lack male influence at home, boys especially will benefit enormously in both their behaviour and academic attainment from positive male role models at schools.

 

Again, regardless of the fact that a teacher will make a positive difference to children’s lives and help to shape a country’s future, teaching is also a rewarding and demanding profession. Teaching is a career that offers challenge and reward that one would expect from a graduate entry job.

 

It also has good salaries and opportunities for career progression. But then, to the general public and education stakeholders, the number of male teachers in nursery, primary and secondary schools nationwide is becoming more worrisome by the day.

 

Teaching is gradually becoming an exclusive preserve Of women; thus provoking the question: where are the male teachers? In Nigeria, the case is more pronounced in primary and secondary schools where statistics show that over 80 per cent of teachers are women. Therefore, while the professional status and financial rewards of teaching have undoubtedly risen in recent years, the attitude that basic child education is not a ‘real career’, especially for men, persists.

 

Commenting on the shortage of men in the teaching profession, Kingsley Onyeachonam, a lecturer said, “There is no doubt that male teachers are in a more difficult situation than women due to increased publicity about men and child abuse. However, child protection panic seems to have distorted the public’s sense of perspective over where the greatest risks to children lie.

 

Most child abusers are family members or a person close to the family, and children can be abused by anyone: men or women, young or old, married or single, educated or not educated, in employment and non-employment settings and so on.

 

While the number of false allegations being made against teachers is difficult to determine as there is no central database or record of statistics in many countries, there is no evidence to suggest an increase in child abuse perpetrated by male teachers when compared to other professionals with a caring role such as health professionals, social workers or youth workers.

 

The stereotype that male teachers are homosexuals and the assumption that pedophiles come from the gay community are also not supported by any evidence. These views reflect society’s confusion over male roles in basic education and equality between sexes in general.

 

We always forget that schools create universal precautions that apply to all staff for the protection of children. A special rule for men, like one which states men cannot engage in physical contact with pupils just because they are male, would simply perpetuate the stereotype that men are not trustworthy with children.

 

Physical responsiveness, especially in the basic schools, is a fundamental component of a responsible and caring teacher’s role. In certain cases, not to do so could equate to a form of emotional abandonment and professional neglect.

 

Thankfully, schools are increasingly recognising that ‘no physical contact’ policies are mere wild over-reaction to a moral panic of epic proportion. No doubt all children need to be protected, but the disproportionate concern about male teachers abusing children is misplaced. The sad fact remains that parents and people close to the child at home are the most likely to harm children.

 

No one will love to work where he or she is not fully accepted, man or woman regardless. It is high time something is done to bring men back to the teaching profession because men are needed in schools in this country. There’s supposedly a teacher shortage nationwide, but there has always been a shortage of male teachers. There’s still a huge gender gap when it comes to teaching. The few men that are teachers are seen in secondary schools and rarely in primary schools. Good male teachers are needed at the early childhood and middle school levels.

 

Mrs Maureen Ibeh, while commenting on how to make the teaching profession attractive for the male folk said, “I know that teachers’ salaries are not bad, but the government need to look into their pay package, giving it an upward review to make it attractive to the male folks. This is because we really need men in our schools.

 

There are certain subjects that are better handled by men, especially subjects that are technical, which women cannot handle because of the kind of equipment that might be involved. In addition to upward review of teachers’ pay packages, they also need to be empowered.  If more men are expected to take up career in teaching, then practicing teachers need to be empowered.

 

Teacher empowerment simply means that teachers should be equipped with the capacity and the ability to carry out their statutory duties, which is to deliver quality education to the citizenry. They should be provided with opportunities for continuous learning, professional development opportunities that promote teachers’ collaboration, platform that will enable teachers from this country to meet with teachers from other parts of the country and even outside the country.

 

This will enhance the culture of trust and knowledge sharing that collaboration produces. Overtime, collaborating of this sort has been linked to increased teacher effectiveness, improved student test score and teachers’ willingness to adopt new innovations.

 

“Overtime, it had been observed that most men shy away from teaching in the basic child education sector. Most men who would aspire to be teachers prefer doing that in the ivory walls because it is believed that lecturers have better pay, more opportunities to progress on the job. So, I think that if the amount of encouragements given to lecturers is equally extended to teachers in the basic child education sector, the men folk will be zealous to return to the classrooms”.

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