“The Zulu way”: experiences and practices of black female teachers: a case study of a rural secondary school in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
This study examined the experiences and practices of black female teachers in one rural school in South Africa. The aim of this study was to explore the gender relations that existed within the school setting in a male dominant teaching environment. Semi-structured interviews with the school principal, heads of department and level one educators were conducted to collect data. The findings revealed that Zulu cultural beliefs and expectations of rural women fostered gender discrimination of female teachers at the school which served to undermine their authority and to moderate their functioning. The female teachers at the school faced serious challenges in the performance of their duties as they met with resistance from the male teachers, male learners and the school governing body. Most of the male educators drew on traditional notions of Zulu masculinity and culture to exercise power over the women and to promote patriarchy and gender inequalities within the school. In addition to voicing the barriers and challenges of rural women teachers and highlighting the gaps that need to be addressed to improve their status, this study highlights that both men and women conduct gender and that men play an active role in shaping women’s identity and controlling behaviour. It is recommended that gender interventions must include men with questions of masculinity, asking how men might develop new masculinities that are not vested in the oppression of women – and which, in turn, might liberate them from limiting gendered expectations.