Creating a Gender-Responsive environment for the holistic development of learners

The DBE understands the huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Early Childhood practitioners and educators to teach fundamentals for the holistic development of the South African learner. “The Department has, along with the VVOB – Education for Development, and in collaboration with the Institute for Life Course Health Research (ILCHR) and the University of Stellenbosch, developed a comprehensive toolkit with resources for promoting gender equality through the creation of Gender-Responsive Pedagogies (GRP) and environments. The toolkit provides guidance on how to prevent discrimination based on gender. Many stereotypes exist about how boys and girls should look, speak and behave, and as a result, their development and learning can be negatively impacted on,” explained Mr Likho Bottoman, Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education.

He further added that early learning environments are important places to help children feel safe and accepted, whilst being encouraged to reach their full potential. Gender is not an “either or scenario, but a spectrum” with a wide range of gender identities and expressions. Every child also has a gender identity, along with their personal understanding of how they perceive themselves. People who identify as transgender have a gender that is different from the gender associated with their sex, and the person identifies as neither man nor woman, with gender non-binary fluctuating on the spectrum. Gender equality, gender responsiveness and GRP is used to promote a child’s sense of identity and ability.

“The toolkit includes the following: Creating a Gender Responsive School For Young Children: A Practical Guide For School Leaders in SA; Promoting Gender Equality in ECD: A Practical Guide For Teachers and Practitioners in SA; a poster with tips to break away from gender stereotypes in raising your child; and Promoting Gender Equality in ECD: Learning with others in a Professional Learning Community. Guidance is provided on five important aspects that can be implemented to enable a GRP. These are: the learning environment and how the classroom and outdoor area is organised; learning materials; learning activities; interactions and language used in the classroom; and interactions beyond the classroom, as well as the involvement of parents,” explained Ms Dululu Hlatshaneni, Deputy Director from the Social Cohesion and Equity in Education Directorate. A total of 4,000 tablets will be distributed to Grade R educators and ECD practitioners to access the GRP for Early Childhood Education digital resources.

It is clear that the DBE remains committed to protecting the rights of South African children. The Ministerial Task Team on the Evaluation of Textbooks and Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM), ensures that the content of all prescribed textbooks for learners avoid stereotypes and are free from gender discrimination. The Social Cohesion and Equity in Education Directorate oversees social cohesion, nation building and gender empowerment in schools, whilst the Gender Equity sub-directorate coordinates and monitors gender empowerment and equity. Furthermore, the introduction of a Life Skills Programme in primary schools that deal with gender issues such as gender violence, teenage pregnancy and discrimination is considered a key contributor for minimising gender inequality. The Programme aims to promote personal development, self-esteem and self-confidence amongst learners.

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