Female Teachers of Saptari tell their stories
“People filled my heart and head with negativity and did their best to discourage me when I first decided to become the head teacher”, says Rajeshwori Chaudhary. She is the only female head teacher of secondary level school in Saptari district and is determined to enhance teaching-learning environment of her school and breaking social norms. Her school is 7 kilometers from home so she rides a motorbike to work every day. “Whenever they see me ride my motorbike, they are amused as it’s usually the men who ride these heavy bikes.”
This is not only the story of Rajeshwori. Many female teachers of Saptari face similar problems and in female teachers’ meet held on 16 and 17 December, they came together to share their stories of struggle and success.
Ranjana shared another story with us. She was not provided enough leave after giving birth but she saw that male teachers get leave without substantial reason. The head teacher of her school asked her to resign if she needed time off to take care of her sick child.
“Female teachers are given extra load at work but are forgotten when there’s a training or capacity building opportunity. They are very little recognition for our hard work”, Lalita said. Information circulars sent by District Education Office do not reach female teachers in Lalita’s school. Opinions of female teachers are not considered.
On the other hand is Gita Shah who is confident and questions the school authority whenever it decides something without the notice of female teachers. Her challenge is different. She thinks that she has not been provided with sufficient trainings to carry out teaching learning activities.
These are few representative stories of 633 female teachers of 410 community schools in Saptari who gathered at a first of its kind meet of female teachers. Many teachers who attended the meet had similar problems: lack of proper teaching-learning materials, discrimination, lack of recognition among others. The female teachers believe that providing female teachers with proper trainings, technique, materials and insights of teaching can reduce the discrimination and inspire more girls to stay in school.
The ratio of female teachers in the schools of Saptari is only 6% in comparison to male teachers. Similar is the case with girl students. Though they are enrolled in schools, half of them stay home unable to find time away from household chores. For girls, learning household works is considered important than going to school. Creating confident and trained female teachers can also bring those out-of-school girls to schools.
The female teachers’ meet attended by over 1500 people from various walks of life aimed to inspire the female teachers to work towards delivering quality education by sharing their stories, showcasing motivational videos of schools headed by female head teachers and providing them with insights and ideas from experts. District Education Office and Save the Children started the teachers can make a difference meet in 2014 and this year, the event was focused on female teachers.
Every story of success presented at the event had challenge and discrimination in the core, underlining the thought that every cloud has a silver lining. Stories of those who strived and identified the silver lining in their lives inspired many others lost in the clouds continue their search.
“Men or women, everyone in a new position faces few challenges. There are more challenges for female teachers but that should not stop them from striving for brilliance and doing their job with confidence. Female teachers need to work on enhancing their capacity and confidence rather than being discouraged by discrimination”, says Saraswati Devi Yadav, a principal of a Primary School in Saptari.