Odd experiences for primary schools with no female teachers

By Sauli Giliard

BEFORE standard seven results were out in 2016, Chohero Primary School located at Chohero Village in Ikeo ward, Mvomero District of Morogoro Region, had only two male teachers who were teaching 520 pupils.

Subsequently, Chohero was ranked among 10 worst performing primary schools not only at district level, but also at the regional and national levels as well. One of the reasons leading to such poor performance was the absence of enough teachers.

After such worst performance in the history of the school built in 1971, Chohero Primary School Head Teacher Bernard Pius says, “The district acted and sent school inspectors who filed reports that were sent to the Mvomero District Council. Among the notable issues was acute shortage of teachers.”

After the report was delivered to the respective authority, the school head teacher adds: ‘‘We received two male teachers to support us. Still we need more teachers…” Chohero Primary School has four teachers, none of them female.

Mr Pius said it was sheer luck that girls at the school have not had any menstrual period complications, otherwise this would have been a big problem.

However, there is a challenge arising from lack of female teachers in the school. Happiness Banye, a standard six girl at Chohero says she would be very happy to see a female teacher in the school.

Without mentioning how she would have been benefited from such teacher, she said: “We have four teachers…all are male. We need a female teacher and I think we would do better.”

Lumba Chini Primary School in Singisa ward of Morogoro Rural Council is another school that has four teachers. Apart from facing acute shortage of teachers like Chohero, all four are male.

Mr Emmanuel Kunambi has been teaching Lumba Chini Primary School for 13 years. “When I arrived here (at the school), I found only one female teacher. She didn’t stay longer, she quit,” says Mr Kunambi who is also the school’s head teacher.

He adds, “This is almost the 10th year, we have not seen a female teacher in our school. We do request teachers to the council for we are facing the shortage of teachers. We are only four teachers with a workload of teaching 555 pupils. We need female teachers as well.”

After being without a female teacher for couple of years, Maguruwe Primary School was lucky to have the fourth teacher who is a female. Until April, last year, the school which is located at Maguruwe Village, Bunduki ward, Mgeta in Mvomero District had only three teachers, all were men.

“After relocation of the teachers to benefit schools that are located in the periphery, our school, Maguruwe, was lucky to get a female teacher. She is not only working as a merely teacher but as a female parent and advisor,” says Maguruwe Village Executive Officer (VEO), Ms Leokadia Mbena.

Education and Training Policy of 2014 launched by former President Jakaya Kikwete in February, 2015, it identifies that teaching staff shortage is among of the challenges that facing education sector.

It’s problematic While Chohero head teacher Mr Pius says he’s lucky that he has not encountered gender sensitive challenges at his school, his counterpart from Lumba Chini, Mr Kunambi says “there are some issues that girls are not freely to talk to us…or even if they tell us, we can’t help them.”

“How can I help a girl who has experienced her first Menstrual Period at school? It is a challenge. If we realize such challenges, we direct them to the house of teachers’ wives,” he says as he points at one of the teachers’ house.

Singisa Ward Councilor Ms Anna Mgela says one of the important needs at the school is not only teachers, but specifically female teachers. She says when some girls, “experience first Menstrual Periods while at school, there is no option.

Some may disappear until menstrual period complications are over. They fear to break the news to the male teachers…if there were female, it could be easier.”

Maguruwe Village Executive Officer, Ms Leokadia Mbena says in the rural setting, most of the pupils start school late adding that “…Despite of being at primary level, majority experience their first menstrual period while at school….this is why we need both male and female teachers at school.”

During Gender Festival of 2017 held in Dar es Salaam,  TGNP Mtandao Executive Director Lilian Liundi says in recently years, some girls are experience their first MP while they are in the primary school level. “Hence they miss school between 30-40 days every year,” she says as she calls district councils to set aside gender sensitive budgets to keep girls in their school.

It is believed that girls become losers due to their biological nature compared to boys, prompting TGNP’s Ms Lilian to suggest that “there should be a special programme to compensate for approximately 30 to 40 days that girls fail to attend classes due to the menstrual period related complications.”

Apart from that, she states, district councils should prepare gender sensitive budget that will enable the provision of free pads to girls and construct specials toilets, dumping areas and first aid kits in public schools. Ms Monica John, a communication specialist  (TGNP) in Dar es Salaam says, a female teacher has a multiple roles at a school.

To Ms Monica, a female teacher acts as a parent, guardian and advisor to pupils, adding “absence of female teachers in schools affect pupils because they undergo various changes On the other hand, Ms Werande Swai, a teacher by profession who has experience in teaching at primary and secondary school in Coast Region says, “I have helped some female pupils during their first menstrual periods…just an advice of how to coup with the experience is worth to them.”

Explaining the consequences of absence of female teachers in school, Ms Swai says, “The school will be dominated with male dominated system because all decisions have been made by only male teachers. If the school has both male and female teachers, it is possible that their decisions will favour the affairs of both boys and girls at a school.”

Challenges in Periphery Mr Edward Kibona and Mr Johnson Mwande are among teachers who were posted to Lumba Chini Primary School to join two teachers, namely Emmanuel Kunambi and Mr Prosper Matei who were the only teaching staff at Lumba Village.

Since there is no transportation at the village due to poor roads, the duo were forced to use motorcycle transport. “No communication infrastructure, no electricity and it’s difficult to communicate with our relative,” says Mr Kibona.

But Mr Kunambi, who is head teacher at the school encouraged them and now, it’s their third year teaching at Lumba Chini. Likewise, Chohero villagers in Mvomero have never experienced a car arriving at their locality since they were born. There is no road and only few motorcycle riders who dare to go to Chohero.

Commuter buses to Morogoro town and other areas can be found at Nyandira, where Mr Emmanuel Haule and other people have to walk for nearly three hours to get the service.

“This is the reasons why there are few teachers especially female in the periphery. Most of the female teachers are in town…even their spouses can’t allow them to stay here though one should work any place that they are allocated… who else?” says Mr Haule as he queries.

Contacted for comments, Morogoro Regional Commissioner (RC) Dr Stephen Kebwe says, the local government agrees the fact that female teachers are snubbing rural areas because of poor social services including infrastructure.

The region, according to him, is implementing teachers’ equalization programme to balance number of teaching staff in different areas, “and rectifying some mistakes where some decisions were done irrationally.”

Education and Training Policy 2014 The new Education and Training Policy of 2014 states that the shortage of teachers in the education sector is challenges hence the government has committed itself through Specific Goal IV to make sure that there is “increased human resources depending on the national priority.”

Though the policy doesn’t mention specifically the need of having both female and male teachers in the school, but Ms Swai says, due to the fact that boys and girls are growing, they experience different changes into their bodies, placing the demand of both female and male teachers in the schools.

But the policy realizes that improving the schools environment, communication, building houses for teachers and other infrastructures will attract the teaching staff, regardless of their sex affiliation. In the policy, government declares that it will improve school environment and other social services in school and colleges.