Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2
The Education system and how it Influences Women
About two-thirds of all children in the Solomon Islands go to school. Girls go into the education system about the page 36 same age as boys, at about six to eight years old. But twice as many boys go to school as girls. This means that most of the children who do not go to school at all are girls.
The primary schools have many more boys than girls. The feelings and interests of the class are influenced by boys. Most of the teachers are men. Women teachers often have difficulty controlling classes of older children, where the boys are quite big and there are few girls. Sometimes, men teachers have affairs with the bigger girls, which may disgrace the girls but nothing very bad happens to be teacher; recently, however, some male teachers have been sacked or had other heavy punishments for this.
Secondary schools are also mainly boys' schools. But these schools are even worse, because there are three times as many boys as girls in secondary schools. And these schools are preparing pupils to work in the modern economy, where nine out of ten jobs are held by men.
So the atmosphere in secondary schools is to prepare pupils for a world where men go out and do the important and page 37 exciting jobs, while the women do domestic duties. They can also become teachers or nurses, but they are not expected to last long in these jobs before they get married or become pregnant.
A lot of employers do not like the idea of employing women in important jobs, because they do not trust them or they do not think other men will trust them, or because they are uneasy about sex differences at work. This affects the way teachers prepare girls for employment and careers.
The education system is dominated by men, like everything else in the modern side of life in the Solomon Islands. So the system has the effect of getting girls used to the idea of male domination. This is reflected in the fact that so few of our well-educated girls feel strongly or want to do anything or change the pattern of male domination. They have been brainwashed by the education system.
This is odd because in our traditional society, women were much more powerful than we are now and we still have more power in the village than we have in the town. Our women have lost power through modernisation and new ways of living. The education system is one of the main ways that these changes are being spread and encouraged.
The planning of the education system has been entirely done by men. There is not one woman politician, or one woman on the permanent headquarters staff of the Ministry, or the Central Planning Office. The needs of women - for example, the need for pre-school facilities in town areas, where many mothers go out to work - are therefore forgotten, or given a low priority.
How can we Improve things?
For sure, the answer cannot be found inside the education system itself, because it naturally tends to continue the way it is. We have to make changes by pressures from the outside.
We should be tackling this in several different ways. page 38 The main points of attack would be -
Educating the parents to send their daughters to school. We have to get parents to see and understand that the best investment in education is to get their girl children into school.
Educating the employers to give proper, full career jobs to women and to accept us as real competitors for a wide range of jobs.
Changing the school curriculum to include subjects and material which will show to both boys and girls, what women can do if they are given the chance.
Teaching people about education so all kinds of people can see what is wrong with the system and think how to improve it.
Appoint women advisors to Central and Local government education bodies.
Have ‘balanced employment’ rules for government to give a good example and to get women into key jobs as models of what can be done.
Generally raise women's consciousness.