We asked the students we are working with in Iganga, Uganda to assess the gender disparities in their community. These students are training to become teachers and within two years, will be working with classes of 100-200 elementary students. Girls, in this traditional patriarchal and polygamous society, already face serious discriminatory practices in the home. Teachers who teach in these schools come from the same community, and faced similar challenges when they were growing up, resulting in a seemingly endless cycle of gender discrimination. Working with these teacher trainees to be more effective in the classroom requires breaking down some age-old practices. So, when we asked these student teachers how they would respond to gender discrimination, from attitudes and biases towards girls’ ability to be academically successful to overt discrimination (“girls and women are inferior to boys and men”), their responses were telling: harsh disciplinary action- ranging from “stalking and caning” to publicly humiliating children. While every student did acknowledge that gender bias exists, very few had a clear idea of how to fix it. “Guidance and counseling” were commonly parroted phrases, indicating that these are part of teacher training, but again, there was little indication of what guidance and counseling entailed. Often the very teacher trainees who mentioned guidance and counseling were also the ones who advocated for severe caning and other forms of corporal punishment. A deep-rooted conservative mindset was made evident by numerous biblical references attempting to reconcile the creation story with gender equality, and frequent mentions of a need for females to dress modestly. We were told that girls who dressed provocatively “asked” for trouble. Many trainees, male and female alike, seem to have difficulty finding a place for equality within their faith’s mythos. While recognizing the existence of deep-rooted gender discrimination is a crucial step toward solving the problem, there are many harmful cultural norms that must be addressed before long-term healing can occur. This is why leadership training for teachers is so crucial- for these changes must be led from within, and teachers must be given the skills to do so.
In July, ConnecTeach went to Iganga to lay the foundation for this project, by meeting with local government officials and meeting with our in-country partner. While there, we also deliver a one-week workshop to over 300 teacher trainees at Walugogo Primary Teacher’s College. One of these trainees that we met was David. At 24 years old, David is one of the oldest in his cohort of mostly 16- to 18-year olds. He began his education late because he was abducted by Joseph Kony at age 13. He experienced daily torture for over a year and his story, while tragic, is remarkable because of his resilience and determination to make a better life not only for himself, but also to build a better future for the students he will be teaching. During the workshop, the topic of classroom punishment was discussed. The trainees shared that corporal punishment remains a common classroom management strategy, and that many students have died in the region due to beating. At this point, David stood up and shared his story, pleading with his classmates to eliminate classroom violence. He said that Joseph Kony dropped out of primary school because he was beaten at school and at home. He said, “This teacher [Joseph Kony’s teacher] brought the war to the whole village... If we teachers don’t change, we will have more Joseph Konys…. As teachers, please don’t have the heart of revenge….Let’s have good skills on how to handle problems.”
Although Joseph Kony is the extreme example, violence remains inherent to the narrative of this region. Students like David give us hope that the narrative can be changed. Your continued support will literally make a world of difference.
Thank you for your support to help us graduate the Accelerator challenge. Your generation donation helped us take the first steps towards launching our project. We invite you to share our story and continue to support our project so that we will be able to reach our goal of impacting 30,000 students and 1,300 teachers.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
Get Reports via Email
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.