The working conditions and careers of KwaZulu-Natal women teachers.
Women activists in teacher unions such as Sadtu claimed that there was a disjuncture between what the South African Constitution says about gender equity and what is happening in reality. This study was undertaken to investigate this claim from the women teachers' perspective. This study explores how the social, cultural, political, historical, economic and educational factors influence the conditions of work and careers of the women teachers in KwaZulu-Natal. In this study, an historical outline of the contribution of various philosophies and attitudes to the relative position of KZN women from 1845 to 2000 is given in an attempt to seek solutions to the gender equity problem in education. The study also uses the racial perspectives to investigate the feminists' claim that Black women suffer triple oppression - that of gender, race and class. An extensive exploratory study using a multiple method approach, incorporating data from documentary research, surveys and interviews leads to the presentation of a well etched picture of the KZN women teachers. A large sample of 339 educators participated in the study. The major findings of the study include the following aspects: About 64 percent of the teachers in KZN province are women. Despite their majority in the teaching profession, their contribution to education is grossly undervalued. The most visible sign of this discrimination is the under-representativity of the women educators in managerial and decision-making positions in the education hierarchy. This stems from patriarchy which is still prevalent. Women are excluded from male dominated areas through socialisation and male resistance to change. Although about 98 percent of the women are certificated teachers, the majority of them have only a matriculation certificate as academic qualification. This stems from the historical under-investment in the girl child's education by parents and the State. About 67 percent of the women teachers are married and 68 percent have children. The majority of them believe in the tradition of marriage and are very comfortable with the multiple roles they perform. However, the majority of the Black women derive little satisfaction from teaching at the moment because of the tough working conditions and the lack of respect from learners, parents and KZNDEC officials. Presently the Govt's R & R policies cause uncertainty and frustration for the teachers. The work environment at historically Black schools can be unsafe with robbery and muggings which happen in the school grounds. Women teachers are presently on a par with the men in economic terms. The most significant aspect of the empowerment is the ability to leave their pension benefits to their husbands or dependents upon their death, this gives them a new identity, that of benefactors. Through its affirmative action policies, the State is giving preference to women when promoting personnel to managerial posts. Overall, the women teachers are still overworked and, therefore, relatively underpaid. Because of the role overload they are prone to ailments, frustration, stress etc. Therefore, it is recommended that their retirement age be reduced; the calculation of pension benefits for previously disadvantaged women teachers be corrected; women's health be given priority attention; childcare be provided at the workplace. In addition, more research on KZN women teachers' issues needs to be undertaken as this is only a baseline study. This study confirms the women teachers' claim that thus far the new Govt has addressed only the class issues and not the issues of race and gender.