Respecting our female teachers

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TTUTA writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

RECENT STATEMENTS by officials of the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA), before the joint select committee of Parliament, regarding the attire of female teachers are alarming to say the least. This kind of archaic thinking amazingly still prevails among those in leadership positions. It is worrying and helps to explain the disrespect that is extended to women.

While cultural traditions would have entrenched this kind to mindset, education should have served to eradicate such thinking and help to ensure that cultural norms change to be more aligned with the modern era.

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While the prevalence of male students being tempted to touch female teachers may not be significant, one such act is too many. Our boys must be taught that on no account they have the right to violate any woman, regardless of their attire. This education must take place in our homes and communities, and reinforced in our classrooms.

Our boys must learn from a tender age that females are not property to own. They must not be encouraged to touch nor sexually harass female students and worse yet female teachers. Such behaviour must not just be discouraged, it must be denounced in the strongest manner by all other right-thinking citizens.

Unfortunately, this culture prevails in many of the nation’s schools. Young female teachers are regularly sexually harassed in many schools by groups of male students via crude and sexually charged remarks.

In some schools, female teachers are fearful to venture into certain parts of the compound unless they are in groups. This behaviour prevails notwithstanding attire. Such gross disrespect often goes unrecorded and unpunished.

In many of our schools where student indiscipline is a problem, one would find many of the young female teachers fearful of some male students, owing to their disrespectful, crude, and suggestive behaviour. The trend of boys wearing their pants on their hips revealing their underwear is an unfortunate reality of deviant school culture, aided and abetted by their parents and communities. It is a way of them advertising their manhood to other female students and in extreme cases female teachers.

Such offensive behaviour displayed by boys often meets with the approval of their mothers, who when confronted by school officials to assist in reforming the offending behaviour have been known to be uncooperative and in some cases downright hostile to school officials.

Notwithstanding the acceptance by our society of certain fundamental principles of humanity as a modern nation, we continue to perpetuate archaic and morally reprehensible codes of conduct, including the treatment of women as sex objects and second class citizens.

The large number of women who are victims of domestic violence bears testimony to this. We still have a long way to go to ensure that our society in general functions on basic principles of respect and human dignity, regardless of gender.

The changing roles of women that emerged thanks to education have apparently not been internalised by many males in our society. Our boys and girls must be taught from a tender age to reject our social and cultural norms that denigrate women. It is ironic that a profession that has been female dominated for decades should have to treat with such bigoted and sexist thinking from one of the major stakeholders in education.

Rather than encourage parents to correct their boys, blame is directed at the female teacher. This logic also concludes that rape is the woman’s fault. This assertion from the NPTA warrants condemnation in the strongest terms, while simultaneously acknowledging the responsibility of our female teachers to always dress and conduct themselves in a manner befitting the honour and dignity of the profession. Their attire must never serve to distract from the teaching and learning process.

Our music culture often serves to glamourise disrespect to women in a most vile, crude and despicable manner. Teenagers have and continue to be heavily influenced by such popular music. While music artistes have poetic licence, they must also be mindful of their negative impact on impressionable young minds searching for identity.

Parents, community and religious leaders are duty bound to condemn such forms of entertainment as part of the moral education of both boys and girls. Disrespectful behaviour is learned and our boys are products of their social upbringing.

It’s time we take drastic steps to build a respectful society. Condemnation of attire must be gender neutral and mindful of our constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Source: Newsday http://newsday.co.tt/2018/02/13/respecting-our-female-teachers/

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