Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Classroom as a Gender inclusive environment - My Reflections

I feel my perception of women, at both the personal and professional relationship levels, is that of equal partners who are as capable as I am. I know that just like I have my strengths and weaknesses, they also have theirs!

Upon deep reflection, I have arrived at the understanding that we are created complementary by nature. In any field of human endeavor, it is the combination of the unique strengths and outlooks of both sexes that could lead to the emergence of a successful complete whole.

With such a disposition, I see the students in my classes generally as human beings, each with his/her unique stories, intelligences and strengths which could be nourished to guide the individual student and the class as a whole to reach their potentials in their chosen fields.

Even in my professional relationships with female colleagues, I have realized that they are sometimes able to bring a refreshing different perspective to issues which, I must be sincere, I, as a man may not be aware of. We may be different, but I know we are equals who need one another to ensure a successful existence.
In diving students into groups at the beginning of the programme, it is my usual practice to ensure the groups, while created with the perceived intelligences as the primary consideration, are made up of both boys and girls. Such pairings/groupings allow the students to learn and work together in a cooperative manner. This in turn, allows them to cultivate a sense of mutual respect and understanding for one another.
By appreciating the qualities or capabilities of one another, they go through the programme seeing one another as equal partners.

Even in a conservative society like mine which is male dominated, the initial prejudices of looking down upon the girls, which the boys have grown up with, wears off after some time of learning and working with girls on group tasks and assignments.

Another good way of promoting gender equality in the classroom is assigning leadership roles to the girls when they are proven to be capable. This boosts their self-confidence and as time goes on, wins them the respect of the boys. A female group leader who is able to excellently coordinate the activities of her group is quickly accepted by the boys as an equal who is consulted in issues other than curricular activities.

In designing our learning materials, I usually consider the general interests, intelligences and emotional disposition of the various students. By ensuring there are parts of the learning activities that every student can relate to, regardless of sex, race or other differences, everyone is able to contribute to the discussions and assignments.

A more direct method could be to raise societal issues that border on gender inequality, and throw them up for general discussions during our free periods. Examples of such questions include:

 There are more men than women in politics; would it make any difference if we had more women?
 Should there be any occupation that is strictly reserved for women?

Such questions would provoke deep reflections among the students and diverse opinions will certainly crop up, giving me an opportunity to learn more of the outlook of the students towards gender issues, and thus be able to guide the class clear long held prejudices borne out of misconceptions and false myths.


  1. Ibrahim,

    It can take a long time to change the norms of a society. Even in the U.S. with strong rights and equality for women, it remains to some extent a "man's" world. But we must start somewhere and it seems that the measures you are taking is a start.

    It is proven that everyone's life is improved if a women's life is improved. However, it is not always easy for everyone to see this even for women as they too, like you say, believe what society has told them generation after generation.


  2. The world at large still remains a "man's world".
    But with the various achievements of women in various fields, it will not always remain so!


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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.