Exploring gender dynamics in sexuality education in Uganda's secondary schools

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Within international theory of gender and education, sexuality is implicated as one of the major factors responsible for the differential participation of boys and girls in schooling and the persistent gender inequalities in education in Sub-Saharan African countries and Uganda in particular. In spite of multiple interventions to address the inequalities, gender disparities remain apparent and such disparities continue to entail increased vulnerability to sexual abuse, HIV transmission, unwanted teenage pregnancies, sexual exploitation and the overall silence about sexual experience, for those gendered as girls and women. Comprehensive gendered sexuality education is widely seen as a valuable site of intervention for addressing these problems, thereby facilitating the process of attaining gender equality and equity in society. The relationship between sexuality education and gender dynamics remain, however, complex at multiple levels of the educational process. The main objective of this study is to explore the operation of gender dynamics in school sexuality education. The research interrogates the interactions between contemporary curriculum based ideas of sexuality education in Uganda and the gendered realities of key participants in the pedagogic process. The substantive focus of my study is on secondary school students' and teachers' experiences and interactions with formal school sexuality curriculum. Under the notion that the community of pedagogy for students comprises parents, the research includes an exploration of parents' engagement with the school-based sexuality education. My study draws on qualitative data obtained through qualitative methods namely observation, in- depth and key informant interviews and focus group discussions. Template and thematic analysis was used. The study theorises that the current sexuality education being conducted in Uganda's secondary schools is deficient in terms of content and approach and is based on gender biased materials and textbooks. Overall the education offered is inadequate, largely prescriptive and feminized, generally divorced from students' personal experiences, and sometimes even contradictory. The study reveals complex gendered sexual experiences of students that position boys and girls differently often causing gender inequalities in sexuality education classrooms. The study illuminates the need for a rigorous re-examination of the current curriculum learning resources and advocates an empowerment approach that integrates considerations of gender dynamics throughout the approach to formal sexuality education in a bid to challenge gendered discrimination.

Includes bibliographical references (p. 241-268).