It might be hard to imagine teaching being a profession that women struggle to join, but if you lived in South Sudan it would be.
Yolanda, a female teacher trainee, explains that the struggle to become a teacher starts with the struggle for women to get any education at all. Girls’ education is not prioritised, so they don’t get the education to they need to make it to training college. She knows of many women who ended up getting married young and having children rather than complete school. In a typical secondary school in South Sudan only 30% of students will be girls.
Those who do make it through secondary school face continued problems in joining teacher training programmes. Many women don’t have programmes nearby and have to travel far from home. It’s not considered appropriate for women to be away from their families for long periods of time. Yolanda herself has struggled with this challenge. Though most of her studies are done long-distance, she is required to occasionally travel for 2 week intensive courses. During the last course she was pressured to leave half way through, because her family didn’t want to share her child care duties.
Travel also comes with very real security concerns in areas of conflict, especially for women travelling alone. Both women and their families have very real fears.
The result is few women teachers in schools, especially in higher grades, which only compounds the problems for female learners and teachers, who have to deal with a male-dominated school environment.
Despite the enormous challenges, Yolanda says she’s really thankful for the opportunity to join AET’s teacher training programme. She and 8 other women are being supported through the training programme by the British Foreign School Society. It’s been a tough year. The ongoing conflict in South Sudan has made travelling tough for both students and their tutors. However, Yolanda believes the hard work is worth it to acquire the credentials to be a secondary school teacher. And we believe she will become not just a teacher, but a mentor and role-model for the girls in her community.
Read more about our work training teachers here.
Picture: Yolanda on left with her tutor on the right