Changing the gendered dynamics of refugee classrooms in West Africa: introducing female classroom assistants

Refugee schools in West Africa tend to be dominated by men, with even early years classes taught mostly by male teachers. There are very few female teachers and even fewer female head teachers or education administrators. Although enrollment in the lower classes is more or less gender balanced, by the upper primary level, many of the Liberian refugee girls studying in Sierra Leone and Guinea have dropped out of school and boys greatly outnumber girls. This situation can mean that lessons are oriented to boys’ needs and experiences, that girls are discouraged from participating actively in class and that they are deprived of female role models and women who will encourage them in their studies. It can also mean that girls are vulnerable to sexual exploitation by teachers, often in return for good grades and help with lessons. Although the gender/power dynamics of classroom spaces in the west have been well-documented and theorised, there is little detailed research from development contexts, from Africa particularly, and specifically from refugee school

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