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Girls and boys

Closing gender gaps in an NGO school

by Frank Masanta Jr.

In brief

The motto of “leave no one behind” makes equality a beacon of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender equality is an important aspect, including, though not only in education. Girls from poor families in particular are often at a disadvantage.

Sun-spring Charity School (SCS) is a non-governmental initiative. We operate an almost free school for underprivileged children in Ng’ombe, a low-income township near Lusaka, the Zambian capital (see my essay in D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2016/01, Focus section). We do our best to contribute to SDG achievement, including in regard to gender justice.

The school enrols an equal number of boys and girls. We avoid stereotypical characteristics. No, it is not true that “boys don’t cry”. Nor is it true that “girls don’t fight”. Language of this kind restricts students’ scope for personal development. Moreover, SCS uses gender-neutral language. When and where appropriate, students are encouraged to opt for words such as chairperson rather than chairman or chairwoman. We suggest they avoid gendered terms like “guys”, which may make female students feel excluded.

SCS is serious about the UN approach to preventing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV). All our teachers are bound by a code of conduct accordingly. They must sign it when taking up their jobs. It is fully understood that male teachers and boys are typically the perpetrators of SRGBV, so the school encourages them to become champions in the fight against gender-based violence. We praise girls who report any suspicions to the relevant officer. They can also use an anonymous comment box. SCS takes part in international campaigns to fight gender-based violence. One of the priorities is to create a safe environment for all learners. There must be no bullying, no corporal punishment and no discrimination.

Aware of the disadvantages girls generally face in Zambia, SCS has also created a Girl Child Education Center in another township. We are determined to contribute to closing existing gender gaps in education (see main story). (fm)

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