Dear teacher, don't look away, talk to your boys
This year the focus of Independent Media's annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to our teachers.
- Do you see your role as a teacher coming to an end once classes end, and avoid getting involved when an issue arises with, or between learners?
- Do you allow learners to make inappropriate, disrespectful or prejudiced comments about girls or women?
- When boy learners tease, harass or bully a girl or group of girls, do you think it is just “boys being boys”?
- Have you become tone-deaf to social chatter, particularly between boys and girls, in the classroom?
- Do you close yourself off to communicating with your learners on issues that fall outside the curriculum?
- Are you unlikely to get involved in your school’s initiatives to end gender-based violence, believing you already do enough through your classroom work?
- Do you ever resort to threats of violence to enforce discipline in the classroom?
- Do you hold the view that parents need to do their bit in raising their children, and you do yours in the classroom, in isolation?
- Do you discourage girl learners from pursuing academic interests or projects which you feel are better suited to boys, thinking this is in their best interests long-term?
- Do you ever talk about or refer to women (fellow educators or the women and girls in your life) in a demeaning, disrespectful or chauvinistic / sexist manner.
- Are you guilty of ridiculing a boy learner for “behaving like a girl”?
Teachers have always been regarded as vital influencers in shaping the minds of young people, making them feel safe, cared for and valued as they progress through their school lives.
While most take the task seriously, there are those who add to the scourge of gender-based violence through their stereotypical words and deeds, or even more overtly – from bullying, sexual coercion and exploitation through to using violence or the threat of violence in the classroom and on the playground.
Instead of perpetuating this cycle of toxic masculinity, teachers are encouraged to mark their own behaviour so that they become qualified to #talk2yourboys and break the cycle of endemic violence.
Gender-based violence creates a barrier to children getting a quality education, purely on the basis of the gender assigned to them.
Challenging the negative social norms that drive GBV is a group effort, where teachers can use their numbers to bring about change in the school environment, including the creation of safe reporting structures for teachers and learners.
Unions can play a role by ensuring educators get quality training on all forms of violence.
Teachers need the support of parents and government to ensure that our boys are guided into becoming better men, and women teachers and girls are safe and treated with dignity and respect.
It is never too late to #talk2yourboys and take the teacher's pledge below:
I pledge to do the very best I can to make your school experience an enriching one, where you feel safe, cared for and valued. I want this for you because I know that it will form a major part of who you will become as an adult.
I promise to teach you, through my words and actions, that every woman and girl deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, tolerance and love by every boy and man.
Our world can be bewildering and unfair, but it does not have to be that way in the time we spend together at school.
I promise to lead by example, and will never bully or humiliate you, no matter how challenging the situation may be, no matter your gender.
Sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing, to speak up about violence or abuse, and even feel free to discuss these challenges openly.
I will play my role by educating you about gender challenges and behaviour that is toxic.
I pledge to use our “downtime” to get to know your world, the challenges you face and the things you aspire to, because these discussions will empower us all to play our part in putting an end to gender-based violence.
* GET INVOLVED! Share your thoughts on toxic masculinity and how it affects our society via Whatsapp on 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.