A Q&A about South Africa ft. Dr. Beatrice Akala
In 2002, Dr. Beatrice Akala and her family moved to South Africa as a family assignment. Now, almost 17 years later, they live in a beautiful property in Johannesburg, South Africa.
While riding with Charlie, Dr. Akala’s son, he referred to Buccleuch, the area they live in, as “Buck Town.” During this brief trip, he took my team to KFC, but the menu of Buccleuch's KFC was filled with myriad food options. Really, this moment summarized my reporting trip to South Africa: trying new food, meeting new people, and making new memories.
As I was spending time with Dr. Akala's family, I was taking in the atmosphere, the sounds, the views, and everything around me. In wanting to be receptive (again), I will bring you into Dr. Akala’s African home.
To hear my analysis of the interview, listen to Episode 4 of Rwebel Radio. If you’ve already heard this episode and want to leave a comment, click here.
Dr. Akala describes her degrees and educational background before Javanna asks about her specialty.
Plummer: What made you want to focus on gender equity in education?
Akala: I think where you come from has a bearing on the issues that you get interested in. So, I would say the generation before me in Kenya, women and girls did not have access to education. It was kind of patriarchal and sexist, so families would choose the boy child over the girl child when it came to investment in education, and you’d understand because Kenya got independence in 1963. So, the boy child and the man were given a lot of emphasis as opposed to the girl. With very few resources in the family, they would rather educate a boy and not a girl. And the thinking then was that you’d educate a girl, she’d get married. She would not really plow into the family as such. That has changed because of a lot of advocacies around gender in education.
Can you describe a moment that illustrated gender inequity?
You’d see that kind of inequality in the way the girls and the boys are being treated at that point. And just also the kind of subjects that you’d be encouraged to do. So, girls go do home science, that was clothing and textile, foods and nutrition, but very few were encouraged to take the sciences because that was not their field because then we had very few women scientists. It was easier for you to get a job in the kitchens, in the hospitals, because you had foods and nutrition or you’d go and start your own small business because you did clothing and textile, and many other examples you can think of, but that was in the school space just to see how the girls and the boys were treated differently.
Are you familiar with the Girls Education Movement in South Africa?
A: Not really, but I know there’s a lot of other advocacies like Take a Girl Child to Work. Those, you see them in social media, you see them on mainstream media, and when we have that specific day to support the girl child, then everyone would be talking about it. But I also know that there is a deliberate initiative to improve girls in sciences and mathematics. So, a lot of advocacy around that area because there is that kind of inequality when it comes to courses that girls study at university. That is why we have those initiatives to be able to improve their math and science from primary, high school, so when they get to universities we are not talking about the inequality because they have been prepared at the lower tiers of education.
What do you think was the impact of Apartheid on education, especially for young women?
Quite enormous, but we’re not just talking about young women. We are talking about a whole population of Black South Africans, and that is why we have a huge gap when we talk skills development and about who is employable and who is not. The first graduates got out of the system about 3 or 4 years from 1994. So, we do have a deficit in skills in the country. And if you have read a little about the history of South Africa, then you would be talking about Bantu education.
Bantu education was mainly for the Black people to make them not see beyond their horizons, you know, where you are born, the township you lived in, the streets you lived along, you are not supposed to think beyond that and think that one day I’ll be grazing in these green pastures that are meant for the white people. So, the education prepared you to be a servant to the white people, to be a good gardener, to be subservient, and to be a good house help, to do better ironing and stuff like that. So, math and science, was not what was offered to the Black people in South Africa. So, in general, that was everybody that was affected adversely with Bantu education. So, when you look at the women, we see that they are suffering triple marginalization, just apart from racism, you have sexism and you have patriarchy also playing a role in how they experienced that kind of education. So, it’s whole lot of layers of marginalization that came with the Apartheid system. ~ℝ
Javanna Plummer, Rwebel in chief
Javanna is the editor of "Rwebel Magazine," the architect behind "Rwebel Radio," and the pioneering force of "Xscape." Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.
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