Women teachers' stories and experiences : a case study of the Ex-B. Ed. women students at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
The purpose of this study was to determine and explain the experiences as well as influences and other determinants on the careers of female educators who studied for the B.Ed at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. For some time, it had been observed that although women comprised the majority of part-time students in the B.Ed programme, most of the women experienced gender based problems which could only be addressed by research informed by evidence from these female graduate students' stories. Accordingly, when in 1999 the School of Education set out to determine the extent to which the B.Ed as a course was influencing change in educator practice, a focus on gender was initiated. In line with this, a mini study focusing only on some of the female educators was designed. The purpose was not only to determine the influences of the B.Ed on practice (as was for the main study), but locate these influences in gendered relations. This research report is based on this smaller study. By means of in-depth-interviews eleven women were studied. These women were part of the sample of the bigger study which comprised volunteered male and female educators. The interview schedule included questions relating to the women's background, putting a specific reference to the early lessons in their lives and the impact they (lessons) had on the choices they made about their careers. Women were further asked to relate their experiences of the constraints both during their B.Ed studies and at their workplaces, which are a result of the socially defined roles of the two gender groups. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed for analysis which was done descriptively. The study revealed that their backgrounds determined their career choices, and that the B. Ed had a positive impact on their practices as educators. As women they had a lot of pressure from their studies that left them with limited time to spend with their families. Women are still under the influence of the gendered social expectations in terms of what they do at school and at home, hence some inconsistencies between their beliefs and practices were exposed. Through the feminist perspective, this situation ironically makes them unwilling promoters of gender inequality. These findings led to the conclusion that women are aware of the gender inequalities in education and within the society in general, but they need to accept them as anomalies, so that they can be given proper attention. A call for gender awareness programmes was therefore made. These programmes should be made part and parcel of the initial teacher training, so that gender biases within the education system are confronted and deconstructed.