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AD HOC JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF WOMEN with the EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 March 1998
GENDER EQUITY IN EDUCATION: BRIEFING
Dr Annemarie Wolpe presented to both committees a report on the Commission's findings which is contained in the book Gender Equity in Education (available from the Government Printer).
In her report she states there is a dearth of information at every educational level and the concept of gender equity is practically non-existent. After thousands of consultations the commission affirmed that the situation in education is disastrous. People pay lip service to the idea of equity but nothing is done.
At pre-school level, which is always in the hands of women, gender differences are apparent even here. At school-level, the conditions are abysmal. Although girls do academically better at school, they fall by the wayside later. Governing bodies are conservative in the realm of gender equity. Rape is very common on school premises with perpetrators being from peer group and teaching staff. There is tremendous pressure on girls to have sex and AIDS is rampant.
At tertiary-level, colleges are only interested in structures, fundamental pedagogy and discipline. New curricula are needed reflecting gender. In the "Black" universities very few women go on to do post-graduate work.
The summary (pages 12-16) and recommendations include:
- legislation for vicarious liability ie administrators of schools, particularly, be responsible to see that sexual violence does not occur on school premises. The legislation would have to define what constitutes sexual harassment.
- an urgent call to the Education Department to create a structure to deal with gender equity ( a gender equity task team).
Dr Wolpe stated that she was very aware that the recommendations touch on sensitive issues, particularly in the field of cultural differences, customary law and religion. She believes however that the issue of gender equity is a "non-winner".
Questions asked by committee members:
On what basis can single-sex schools be defended?
Ans: They are not easy to defend. But there are situations were sexual violence happens and this justifies them.
Why has this commission focussed on education and not, for instance, labour?
Ans: Other departments are dealing with gender issues; besides it is the role of education to educate.
What about educating small girls in particular?
Ans: Agrees but most sexual violence takes place in the home which makes it extremely difficult for the child. Hopefully other agencies are dealing with the issue.
Education is controlled by politics - it is not necessarily a subject which everyone agrees on
Ans: Agrees that there are deep-seated ideological positions but our constitution spells out equity. Approximately thirty per cent of parliamentarians are women and one would expect them to take up the issue.
How should this programme be taken to the provinces?
Ans: The report deals with the national, provincial and local level. Overseas money is pouring in to address the issue, but there are no plans on the ground.
What are the budget priorities?
Ans: The funding issue was not part of the brief.
Is there any data on the extent of teenage pregancies?
Blade Nzimande pointed out that the HSRC is working on a database on gender.
Preg Govender stated that everyone should read at least the executive summary in the report. She concluded that it had been very useful for the two committees to meet together and she felt that the next move was to call on the relevant ministries about a way forward and a budget to do so. It was also suggested that a debate in parliament be called for. The issue is much broader than education and institutions such as the churches should be called on to get involved.
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