UKZN researchers involved were School of Education academic Professor Deevia Bhana and postdoctoral student, Dr Shaaista Moosa, while their Australian counterparts were Dr Kevin McGrath and Professor Penny van Bergen
In the study, they consider why it is important for primary and early years schooling to include both male and female teachers. The researchers refute previous calls, directed by public and political discourse, for male teachers to enhance boys’ educational outcomes or to act as role models or father figures.
Instead, they present a theoretical framework that justifies calls for male teachers at four levels: the child level, the classroom level, the organisational level, and the societal level. While complex barriers may continue to limit male teacher representation, the researchers hope that this interdisciplinary framework might stimulate further international scholarly discussions about the interactions between teacher-gender, education, and culture.
Bhana believes that for men to choose to work as teachers of children in the early years of schooling, they must first overcome and confront gender barriers. According to Bhana, gender expectations and stereotypes strongly influence why men shy away from teaching – with teaching often viewed as ‘women’s work’, associated with the care, and nurturing of young children.
‘Consequently, men who teach young children may have their masculinity questioned or scrutinised, and not be seen as “real men”,’ said Bhana. ‘In the context of South Africa’s war on gender violence, men who teach young children could pose a counter narrative to the dominant stereotype related to violence and domination. Schools also benefit when men who nurture and care produce a new learning environment that poses challenges to gender inequalities.’
Bhana notes that in South Africa there is little policy imperative in addressing the missing men in the early years of schooling. ‘For communities to promote positive representations of men, including men at this schooling phase, the focus must be on creating gender harmony and peace,’ she said.