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Tamale Schools Set Pace In Bridging Gender Inequality Gap

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 Source: Ziem, Joseph

BY JOSEPH ZIEM

It is very uncommon in Northern Ghana to find women in key leadership positions in both public and private institutions. Even where you find a woman, it is either because the men are not interested in such positions or the positions are given names suggesting only women can occupy them.

For instance, all Ghanaian political parties have positions for Women Organiser besides the position of National Organiser. It is rare to see a woman contesting for or occupying the position of National Organiser. This is because, psychologically, women in these parties have been made to think that the position of Women Organiser is carved out for them.

Similarly, in the country’s universities and other tertiary educational institutions, there are positions for Women’s Commissioner and many of the competent young women in these institutions who are capable of giving their male counterparts a run for their money in any contest, will always settle for the position of Women’s Commissioner.

Unfortunately, this ideological indoctrination of a sort has transcended down to all the Senior High and Basic Schools. Positions of Senior Prefect or Assistant Senior Prefect in most instances automatically go to the boys whenever elections are held while positions of Girls Prefect and Assistant Girls Prefect also go to the girls.

Subjectively, the only place one finds a female Senior Prefect is in a girl’s only school but where the school is a mixed one, the position will always go to a boy. These and many other chauvinistic tendencies are what continue to perpetuate and widen instead of closing the gender inequality gap that has existed among men and women in Northern Ghana (the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions) for a decades.

In order, therefore, to bridge the gender inequality gap, educators think the best place to inspire future female leaders is at the basic school level. To demonstrate this, the Jakarayili Saqafat English and Arabic and the Seventh Day Adventist Main Junior High Schools in Tamale have both set the pace towards achieving the goal of having more women as leaders in Ghana by electing female Senior Prefects.

At the Jakarayili Saqafat English and Arabic School, 17-year old Theresah Ama Kumi leads the entire student body as the first girl to be elected Senior Prefect. Beautiful, bright and unassuming Miss Kumi, who hails from Bator in the Volta Region, is not only the apple of her parents’ eyes, but also her teachers’ due to her exuding leadership qualities.

Miss Kumi told this writer, she sees her position as Senior Prefect as an opportunity to learn to become a great leader in future, adding that, “It’s my responsibility to ensure that, the school’s environment is tidy every morning when I come to school….I also make sure the classrooms are clean including the staff common room and every female wears a neat veil and a white socks”, she stressed.

On why she contested for Senior Prefectship, Miss Kumi said, she initially wanted to be a Health Prefect but surprisingly, all the boys refused to contest for the top post and she stepped forward. “Only one boy eventually contested me but I won with 52 votes and he took the second position with 47 votes”, she noted.

“I also observed since I came to this school, many of my colleagues and juniors are not confident in speaking English except vernacular. I wanted to be a role model to them and so I stood for prefectship since the position demands that I communicate in English when talking to a teacher or addressing students at Assembly. I also wanted to encourage them to dress well and so that is how come I contested for the position of Senior Prefect”, Miss Kumi said.

Miss Kumi who is assisted by Master Mohammed Nurudeen is aspiring to become a medical doctor in future so that she could also contribute her quota to building mother Ghana by saving lives.

Mustapha Shani, a Social Studies Teacher of Saqafat English and Arabic School spoke fondly of Miss Kumi when this writer spoke to him. “She is an outstanding student and one of few ladies with such qualities. She’s proven beyond reasonable doubt…she’s a disciplined student and always in control of the students”, he observed.

However, clever but shy-looking 16-year old Abubakari Shawkia of the Tamale Main SDA Junior High School, unlike her colleague at Jakarayili Saqafat School, aspires to be a journalist in future so that she can tell the story of the suffering and underprivileged better for the world to know.

Assisted by Abubakari Hafsa, Miss Shawkia was elected into office as Senior Prefect through an intense campaign done by gender sensitive teachers of the school who thought that, the females could also be good leaders when given the mandate.

Miss Shawkia according to teachers is academically intelligent and has the characteristics of a good leader. “Seeing these qualities that Shawkia possess, we think when they are developed, she’ll competently deal with any challenge that comes her way”, Mr. Farouk Ibrahim, a science teacher of the Main SDA School told this writer.

Miss Shawkia also thinks females are calm, well organised and have a sense of sympathy and these qualities enable them to perform well when they are voted into leadership positions. Like some of her colleagues and other teachers, she wished another female could be voted as Senior Prefect after she completed.

“A chunk of the 27 prefects in this school are females. We don’t regret having many females as prefects. If I have my way, every year females will be made prefects because we’re seeing the dividends…..benefits for having female prefects”, Mr. Ibrahim indicated.

Overall, both girls are promising students and per the records, they are among the top five in their various classes and their teachers are expecting nothing but the best from them in the 2015 Basic Education Certificate Examination.

Meanwhile, an Educator and Gender Advocate Professor Agnes Atia Apusigah, has lauded headteachers and teachers of the two basic schools in the Tamale Metropolis for seeing and recognizing the importance of having women in leadership positions.

“Now that we all understand that women, girls are capable decision makers as men and boys, this is the time to continue to encourage them and also target and support those who have the potential to stand for leadership positions.

“School authorities need to continue to maintain this open door policy; women who have excelled need to continue to mentor these young women and keep the advocacy stronger” Prof. Apusigah who is also Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University for Development Studies intimated.

Joseph Ziem

Development Journalist

The Daily Dispatch Newspaper, Ghana

ziemjoseph@gmail.com

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph