In whose favour is affirmative action? 

It is common for efforts in affirmative action to be directed only at females, because they have for long been disadvantaged by the patriarchal structures in our society. But is gender equality about girls and women? Or is it about both females and males? SOLOMON MWIJE writes

The promotion of girl-child education gained momentum in the 1980s and ‘90s when strategies were designed to increase the number of girls joining and staying in school up to higher levels of education.

However, this has not prospered without great hiccups. Even with many girls-only schools like Gayaza High School and Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga being opened up in the early 20th century, girl-child education is still faced with many challenges.

According to the 2012 Education Sector Gender Statistics Profile Report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the number of girls enrolled in school gradually reduces as the level of education goes up from primary to secondary, onwards.

In a bid to promote girl- child education at higher levels, affirmative action was introduced to favour female applicants by adding 1.5 points to their marks for university entry.

We cannot refute the fact that the number of females at university level has relatively increased over time. For instance, at Uganda Christian University, 1,748 (49.7 percent) female students were admitted for the 2013/14 academic year, compared to 1,771 (50.3 percent) male students.

When we shift our focus to academic performance, females should also be recognised for performing better than males.

Still at UCU in the year 2013/14, the number of graduating females last October were 900 (56.6 percent) compared to 689 (43.4 percent) males.

At the same graduation ceremony, the best performer

was a female student, with an overall GPA of 4.82. Out of the 44 students who got first-class degrees, 28 (63.6 percent) were female, compared to 16 (36.4 percent) male.

One wonders then if affirmative action is still relevant!

It is only applicable in public universities, yet the females who are not added points for university entry to private universities are performing better than their male counterparts.

Perhaps affirmative action has outlived its usefulness? It should be revised or scrapped, now that there is evidence to the fact that the strategy does not favour many girls in rural areas because these are still bound by cultural and institutional challenges to accessing education.

I am not negating the strategy’s achieved objectives, but it should be reconsidered under the circumstances.

In my opinion, if gender is about females and males let both parties compete equally because the majority of the people are now aware of the importance of empowering females.

The only strategy needed is to create and sustain open and transparent arenas for fair and just competitions.

The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences

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