How a school director in Ethiopia is fostering gender equality in education

© Genaye Eshetu

Students whisper as their teacher enters the classroom with a baby on her back. Tigist Baye is a civics teacher for grades 9 and 10. She lullabies her son to sleep while her students work on their assignment.

It did not take long for the news to reach the director of Woretta secondary and preparatory school, in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. “Tigist must have had no one to care for her son if she is bringing him to class with her”, says school director Tarekegn Degefu.

Tarekegn’s reaction would have been very different before his participation in the gender-responsive pedagogy and assessment training organized as part of a UNESCO project in Ethiopia. The training helps to consider gender perspectives and apply a gender-responsive approach in teaching and learning practices, and in the wider school environment.

The training transformed Tarekegn’s views on gender equality. He led the creation of a gender club and started a day care service at the school for teachers and staff.

Soon after the announcement of the day care service opening, 10 teachers with children aged 0 to 4 registered. “I was so happy when I heard about the day care service. I can now bring my daughter here and I do not have to worry much since she will not be so far away from me”, says Truaynet, one of the teachers. Many teachers also volunteered to take turns to care for the children during their break hours.

Tarekegn grew up in the town of Woretta and studied in the same school he is currently leading. While he has worked in the field of education for 10 years, the gender-responsive pedagogy training gave him the knowledge and skills to not only apply gender equality principles in the school but also in his personal life. Tarekegn is now aspiring to give back to his school and community.

However, changing the culture of the school requires continuous support and work. To transform the school community, Tarekegn is raising the awareness of teachers and other staff on gender equality and uses every opportunity to pass on what he learned at the training. He encourages the members of the mini media club to include gender equality considerations in their programmes and provides constant support.

He is also working to foster a more inclusive and safe learning environment to increase girls’ performance in school. For example, he is planning to create a girls’ corner, install separate bathroom facilities and have a library space available for girls in the school. He is also looking into securing more mattresses and toys for the day care service.

Woretta secondary school is one of the participating schools of the project. The gender-responsive pedagogy training benefitted teachers, class monitors and girls in the school. Specifically, out of the 200 teachers of which 61 are women, 4 women and 8 men were trained on gender-responsive pedagogy and took part in experience-sharing workshops. Class monitors of grades 11 and 12 and 50 girls, aged 15 to 18, who are members of school clubs, were also sensitized on the gender-responsive approach.

The project in Ethiopia aims to enhance the quality and relevance of education for adolescent girls, and ensure that all girls have access to and transition through the full education cycle successfully. It is implemented by the UNESCO Liaison Office in Ethiopia, under the UNESCO-HNA Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. As part of the project, the UNESCO Institute for Capacity Building in Africa provides technical backstopping in institutional capacity-building for gender mainstreaming in education, gender-responsive pedagogy and teacher training.

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