or women in the education sector in Nigeria, the 2021 celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) couldn’t have come at a better time. The theme of the celebration “Choose to Challenge” was an impetus for the hitherto beleaguered women educators to voice out their frustrations against gender inequality in the sector and canvassed a new order which will accord equal recognition and privileges to women pedagogues just like their male counterparts
Taking a cue from the of speech of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, who demanded more recognition for women in appointment into professional and political roles, Nigerian women educators leveraged on the 2021 IWD to demand respect from the authorities, their male colleagues, parents as well as bullying students
A Lecturer in the Department of Geology, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Mrs. Rita Adeleye, in an interview with The Nation Newspaper, lamented that male students do not take female lecturers seriously compared to their male counterparts. As a result, she said their decisions were not respected like the male lecturers.
According to Mrs. Adeleye, “the students do not take us seriously and respect our decisions on many occasions. The students see us as mothers
and to some extent; it affects the seriousness of the students with class activities and imparting knowledge to them”.
Adeleye added that “some of those students even bully us (female lecturers) because they see us as being a weaker gender. When we create rules for the students, they violate them without considering the consequences. It is difficult for us to enforce rules on those students. We are a bit lenient on them when they start to appeal to the motherly disposition in us,” she
She said further said further that some of her friends in other institutions also lamented that the male lecturers want them to do equal level of work y since they earn the same salary.
For female teachers in secondary schools, the story is not different. Speaking on her experiences a female teacher in Daniel International School, a private school in Agunbelewo in Osun State, Mrs. Adejumonke Taiwo, lamented the lack of equal recognition and respect for female teachers like their male counterparts.
According to her, many parents give less regard to female teachers as problem solvers unlike the recognition given to male teachers. She declared: “when problems arise, they prefer to consult male teachers. Whenever they sight male teachers, they will calm down to explain their grievances to them,”
Approaching the issue from another perspective, Dr. Peace Sorochi Longdet, a Lecturer in the Department of English Language, Federal College of Education, (FCE), Pankshin in Plateau State, said the problem of gender inequalities are multidimensional in a working environment.
Longdet said a woman might find it difficult to excel in her work place if she is unable to balance the society-imposed responsibilities on women with the requirements of her job.
Longdet admitted that the challenges in her work place were not really enormous, but in spite of that she has had to find the right balance between her duties at home and in her work place.
She said: “Sometimes the challenge could not really be from the work environment, but a personal thing. “l am one of such women. You need to grow your career, you need to publish books, you need to go to school to get that education and then, also, you need to keep your family.
“So, as a woman, if you are not able to find that balance, you find out that, it will affect you in your work place. You will find out that you will be stagnated. While others are making progress academically to improve on their qualification, you are just there.
‘’So, I will not say it is a challenge imposed by the work environment, but, because of the demand of the environment. But the inability of the woman to find her balance poses as problem.”
Nevertheless, Longdet said she had faced discrimination in getting into a position because she was a woman.
“Sometimes there are a little bit of leadership tussles where a space is created. A man may be contesting to become the head of the institution and she is also contesting and applying. Then you find out that you don’t really matter as a woman. Her performance doesn’t matter, whether she merits it, she will be judged on the basis of being a woman.
“We have had such challenges of gender inequality…in the work place where a woman applies for a position, as I am sharing from my own experience, where you apply to do a particular job and then the head tells you outrightly that ‘we are not going to give you this post because you are a woman.
“You can see that it is not because you cannot do it but because you are a woman. So the women have such challenges,” she stated.
Dr. Peace Longdet also identified sexual harassment as one of the challenges women face at work places. “We also have a problem where some offices being manned or headed by men are characterized by sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or harassment,” she said.
Dr. Valda Itunu Martins, Lecturer, Federal University of Technology, FUT Minna said she hopes to see more women head universities in Nigeria.
She said: “In the history of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, only 16 female Vice-Chancellors have been produced. I, thereby choose to challenge that female academia should be given equal and level playground to seek for the position of the Vice Chancellor in tertiary institutions. Women should be motivated and encouraged by all to dare that which is assumed to be the seat of the male folks. The likes of Professor Grace Alele Williams of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and Professor Grace Ekpo of Uyo did well as VCs in their institutions. Therefore, we can do immensely great if given the opportunity.”
For Mrs. Oluwasola Omolola, a lecturer at the Federal University Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), said her career in the private sector and as a lecturer in the University, had been devoid of gender-based discrimination.
“I have worked in the private sector before moving to public school and in all honesty, there has not been any noticeable discrimination like that. While in the media, I worked with female bosses and I do not have any terrible tale to tell.
“Since I joined the academia, I have seen women served in various capacities ranging from Head of department, to Dean of faculties and postgraduate school,” she said.
Notwithstanding, like Dr. Itunu, Mrs. Omolola hopes to see more women become vice-chancellors.
“However, I am looking forward to a time when we will celebrate more women as chief executive officers in government owned tertiary institutions. Though some private universities have female vice chancellors at the moment, we want to celebrate more female vice-chancellors in either state or federal universities in Nigeria.
“Though, we are not doing badly, female teachers even get grant opportunities in a bid to promote gender equality. I look forward to quality representation and more female friendly environment,” she said.
Another lecturer in the Business Administration Department of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Bola Dixon-Ogbechie, said as far as she knew, women were fairly treated in her institution.
“Actually, in the academic sector, particularly in my faculty, we do not have gender inequality issues. We are all equal and judged based on academic competence. In my own environment, I never allowed people to run me down because I am a woman. Any responsibilities given, I complete them,” she said.
As an active member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Dixon-Ogbechie said she has competed for positions in the union against men and won.
“In our union’s last election, I competed against seven men and they did not say because I was a woman I should be given a slot. We had to vote for our national delegates’ conference. Out of all the people that contested I was the only female. I competed on equal footing and I won.