Gender representations in English literature texts in Tanzanian secondary schools.
Gwajima, Elizabeth Kilines Sekwiha
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The study explores gender representations in English literature texts used in Tanzanian secondary schools. The aim of this research is to raise awareness of, and contribute to, the general discussion regarding gender equality, and about the meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The goals have been adopted by the government of Tanzania since 2000. The third goal (MDG 3) seeks to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in all levels of education by 2015. The aim of this thesis was to examine the discourses underpinning the teaching of literature in Tanzanian schools in order to examine the extent to which gender representations within the texts, and as mediated by teachers, supports this discourse of equality. The inquiry is explored through a textual analysis of the texts which were used in secondary schools in Tanzania during observation, using postcolonial and feminist perspectives. The study further involved interviewing literature teachers and students, policy makers and curriculum planners and obtained their views about the representations of gender. Data were collected in six schools in three regions of Tanzania, namely Mwanza, Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. Analytical induction has been used to analyse the data collected from interviews and observation. Findings from textual analysis show that some of the texts selected for study do convey strong messages in favour of demarcation between women’s and men’s traits, roles, and occupations, but others do not. Most of this latter group criticise traditional constructions of masculinity and femininity portraying women as subordinate to men and victims of domestic violence, and traditional African practices such as arranged marriage, female genital mutilation and the denial of educational rights. Findings from observations revealed that the texts were tackled relatively uncritically. Teachers rarely encouraged pupils to engage critically with gender issues arising in the texts. Findings from interviews and observation revealed that teachers are not trained to include the goal in their teaching. The thesis concludes that although some of the literary texts have emancipatory aims as revealed in the textual analysis, the gender equality goal is unlikely to be achieved unless the implicit understandings of gender relations in teachers’ classroom practices are addressed. Recommendations are made on how to promote a more critical engagement with gender issues through the teaching of literature in the Tanzanian context.