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Schools should boost our girls’ self esteem

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th August 2011 03:00 AM

RECENTLY I had a discussion with a young girl in P.6. We shall call her Macy. Macy by all standards is an all-star student; actually she is an all-star girl. She invests herself in all she does; her grades, her interests, her relationships, her younger siblings.

By Ilonka Naziwa

RECENTLY I had a discussion with a young girl in P.6. We shall call her Macy. Macy by all standards is an all-star student; actually she is an all-star girl. She invests herself in all she does; her grades, her interests, her relationships, her younger siblings.

It is difficult not to be endeared to her.

She is the kind of pupil teachers look for to manage her peers, the kind of girl parents trust with their younger kids and do not think twice about it.

She is the kind you can have a discussion with and you somehow lose sight of her age, because she exudes maturity and confidence uncharacteristic of her age. Unfortunately, I do not think that the Ugandan education system and culture adequately celebrate and support children like her. But that is the subject for another day.

During this particular discussion I had with Macy, I inquired if she would be gunning for a top ‘prefect’ position at her school, and she informed me that this year she had decided not to run for any office. I made some joke about how I expected her to run for the office of head girl in the coming year (yes, I realise now I am creating some kind of pressure on her to maintain her ‘star’ qualities).

In her characteristic maturity, she responded by saying that she did not want to run for the second highest office, she had her eyes set on another office for her final year of primary education.

I must have made a small start when she mentioned ‘second highest office’. She smiled at me, she knew exactly what had caught my attention and without my asking she confirmed in an all knowing way; ‘Yes head girl is the second highest office.’

“So which is the highest?” I asked, but in my heart I knew the answer already and I tried to hide my disappointment.

“head boy”, she replied with a roll of her eyes.

I must have been visibly indignant. It was not my intention to stir up the wrong emotions in the girl, but I was appalled that a head girl should be held in second position to head boy. I must inform you that Macy is in a very popular school in Kampala, owned by a successful woman who has been in the education business for about four decades.

Dear reader, I must clarify my position about ‘equality issues’ before I proceed to explain my indignance. I am not a feminist, nor do I think I get close to being one. I believe strongly that men and women are not the same; we are differently designed, and have different abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

One of my mathematics teachers used to say in Kampala Parents (long before Sudhir owned it) — you cannot compare oranges and apples. Likewise, I believe that men and women cannot be compared. Therefore, where does anyone get the idea that the role of a head girl is second to that of head boy?

Is having the position of head boy being the leading office and the position of head girl being the second highest office synonymous to saying that boys should always and unconditionally be in the lead and girls should be subservient to them? Yes, I understand that this is the ideal structure of a marriage; and I support it in a marriage but that is why marriage is a choice, and special vows are made to undertake the roles of wife and husband. Likewise, it is prudent for a woman to select a husband whom she feels she can be ‘second in command to’, not just any man can take that honour. But, schools are not marriages, nor are they households.

They are institutions where our children’s potential should be fully harnessed. It is in schools where all the confounding boundaries and limitations that they may hitherto have been exposed to, are nullified and removed, and the sky is set as the limit for their ambitions.

In essence, we are telling a rising star like Macy that the highest office that she can run for will always be second to that of ‘any’ boy/man; that whatever she does, however much she tries, she will always be second to the man. That is utter nonsense!

I am willing to put a challenge out in Macy’s school, among her peers; for any boy that has ability, potential as great as hers to stand up and put up a fight for the position of ‘Head Prefect’. And let the best girl/boy win.

Whoever gets the most votes becomes the head, and the one with the lower votes gets the second highest office (boy or girl)!

Schools should boost our girls’ self esteem

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