The Eduvation Network

Gender bias and inequality in South African education


International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March globally every year is a celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day also usually marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Activity can be seen worldwide as various groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or fight for their equality. 

In South Africa, women still aren’t fully represented in higher education, despite all the changes in laws and policies over the years. The failure of the education sector to look after women and actually develop their talents really holds this sector back in contributing to a meaningful society.

When it comes to gender inequality in South Africa, gender-based violence is also a very big reality in many societies and is linked to the spread of HIV and AIDS. South Africa has a long history of gender discrimination and this is evident when it even comes to women and female teachers and their salaries. The Global World Report for 2018/9 painted a devastating picture of South Africa’s gender pay gap where it was reported that women on average earn 28p% less than males. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) went on to suggest that, “as we move from the lower to higher hourly wages the proportion of women declines and in some cases sharply”. Evidently, this horrific state of affairs further shows how women are marginalised in the workplace and devalued.

As reported in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 2nd quarter of 2018, Statistic South Africa (StatsSA) noted that the expanded unemployment rate was even higher and increased from 30.9% in 2008 to 37.2% in 2018. Both of these rates were higher among women than men.

If this is not enough, violence in and around schools is a phenomenon. Sexual harassment and abuse may be the most well-known forms of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), but it can take many other forms. SRGBV includes violence or abuse that is based on gendered stereotypes or that targets students on the basis of their sex, sexuality, or gender identities. It also  includes rape, unwanted sexual touching, unwanted sexual comments, corporal punishment, bullying, and verbal harassment.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic made matters worse for women and girls in South Africa. Many were locked in homes with their abusers and reports of violence skyrocketed as our President spoke about in many of his addresses, making an already difficult pandemic even more so for women. Organisations such as Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence, based in Johannesburg, could not cope with the number of calls from women who needed to be evacuated from their homes to places of safety. Many had to leave everything they owned behind and faced being outside of their communities, workplaces and schools.

It’s time to take a stand and be the change we want to see in our country. Women and young girls have been silent and punching bags for long enough. Over to you Mr President, some real action needs to be taken to banish gender inequality and GBV for good!








Gender bias and inequality in South African education


Inge Liebenberg




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