Gender stereotypes and education in Lesotho
Although women in Lesotho are faced with almost all kinds of inequalities, this study focuses mainly on the inequalities faced by women in the education system. Two differing geographic locations (Maseru and Mokhotlong) were selected to create a comparative basis for the study, especially with regard to women’s cultural experiences. These locations represent the rural areas and the urban areas of the country. The basis for the selection of the research areas was that although women are discriminated against in many aspects, their experiences are likely to differ due to their geographic location. The investigation was done through the use of a triangular approach, where interviews and questionnaires were used in conjunction with an extensive literature study. Theoretical perspectives of contributing socio-cultural factors that perpetuate gender stereotypes in general such as the school, the parents, language, the church and the media, as well as biological factors were investigated in the literature study. This was done to create an understanding of the way in which stereotypes render women to be inferior. Socialisation theories namely the Social Learning Theory, Cognitive Development Theory, Psychoanalysis Theory and the Gender Schema Theory were thus explored. The ideology of patriarchy, which appears to be the umbrella tool used to relegate women to a position of inferiority, was exposed, as well as its counterideology (feminism). The conclusion of this exposition was that one ideology cannot be used to eradicate the effects of another, since all ideologies have the tendency of presenting a distorted view of reality by allowing certain values to dominate our experiences. Feminism was therefore not seen as a solution to patriarchy. Fundamental democratic principles were subsequently explored to provide the starting point for this research. These principles include equality, equity, respect of human rights and justice to all. The implementation of the draft Lesotho Gender Policy (2003) was further investigated and it was found that this policy has not been instrumental in rectifying the subordinate position of women in education in Lesotho. Some of the major findings in this investigation are the following: • The draft Lesotho Gender Policy (2003) remains a policy on paper only and one cannot even describe the current situation in Lesotho as a gap between policy and practice, because “practice” does not exist at all. • Although women in Lesotho have been enlightened with regard to their inferior position, and in most cases they reject the practices and structures of subordination, in practice very little has been achieved to facilitate equality and justice in education in Lesotho. • Patriarchy is still prevalent in Lesotho and is manifested in a culturallydetermined law system, which “legalises” discrimination against women. The effects of this is that women in education do not serve in decisionmaking positions and are subservient to their male counterparts. The implication here is that women, within the Lesotho education system cannot reach their full potential.