The Effects of Cultural Traditions on the Education of women

The Study of the Tumbuka People of Zambia

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2013

391 Pages, Grade: "'-"





List of Appendices


1. 0 Introduction
1. 1 Inspiration for this book
1. 2 The Tumbuka Tribe
1. 3 Defining the Concepts
1. 4 The Structure of this Book

2. 0 Introduction
2. 1 Stating the Problem
2. 2 Research Objectives and Methodology
2. 3. The Global Context of Educating a Woman
2. 4. Conclusion

3. 0. Introduction
3. 1. The Concept of Feminism
3. 2. Western Feminisms vs. African Feminisms
3. 3. Choice of Theory
3. 4. Theories of Gender Inequalities
3. 5. Human Capital Theory (HCT)
3. 6. Women’s Movements
3. 7. Conclusion

4. 0. Introduction
4. 1. Review of Previous Research Publications
4. 2. The Origins of Traditional Teachings in Zambia
4. 3. Implications of the Cultural Traditions
4. 4. The Tumbuka Initiation Rite (The Uzamba Ceremony)
4. 5. Conclusion

5. 0. Introduction
5. 1. Working with the Research Assistant
5. 2. Researcher Positionality as a Field Worker
5. 3. Ethnography
5. 4. The Pilot Stage
5. 5. Procedures
5. 6. The Research Population
5. 7. The Ethical Obligation
5. 8. Reliability and Validity
5. 9. Analysis of Collected Data
5. 10. Conclusion

6. 0. Introduction
6. 1. Description of the Setting
6. 2. Observed Occurrences
6. 3. Discussion and Findings
6.5 Conclusion

7. 0. Introduction
7. 1. Importance of Traditions
7. 2. Mode of Transmission
7. 3. Effects of traditional teachings
7. 4. Traditions vs. Education
7. 5. Relationships
7. 6. Conclusion

8. 0. Introduction
8. 1. Problems Encountered
8. 2. The Theoretical Framework
8. 3. Summary of the emerging key issues
8. 4. What is the Data saying in light of the main Research Questions?
8. 5. The Education of my Fellow ‘Creatures!’
8. 6. The Recommendations




List of Figures

Figure 1 ~ Map of Zambia showing its Neighbours, Provinces and Districts

Figure 2 ~ Limitations of the Education System

Figure 3 ~ Showing the Millennium Development Goals

Figure 4 ~ Values regarded as important in Zambia

Figure 5 ~ A summary of minimising researcher influence

Figure 6 ~ Research Objectives

Figure 7 ~ 4 different levels of participation

Figure 8 ~ An Example Of Category, Themes And Codes Used

Figure 9 ~ Observed Occurrences in the Locality

Figure 10 ~ Observed Days’ Tasks Performed By a 10 Year Old Grade 2 School Girl

Figure 11 ~ Summary of Initiation Topics

Figure 12 ~ Summary of Effects of Not Keeping the Taught Traditions

Figure 13 ~ Effects Of Knowledge Obtained During Initiation Rite

List of Tables

Table 1 ~ Different levels of the Zambian Education System

Table 2 ~ Enrolment in Basic Schools by gender in Zambia

Table 3 ~ Enrolment In Basic Schools By Gender And Province

Table 4 ~ GER High Schools 16 – 18 (Grade 10 – 12) By Gender And Province

Table 5 ~ Shows the Survival Rate to grade 5 by Province (2005)

Table 6 ~ Dropout rate for Basic Schools by Gender and Province 2005

Table 7 ~ Dropout rates for High School students by Gender and Province (2005)

Table 8 ~ 15 to 24 year olds literacy Rate by Province (2000)

Table 9 ~ Participant Identification Codes

Table 10 ~ Division of Roles


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List of Appendices

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The achievement of this study has been made possible through the critical advice, guidance and indefatigable support of Dr Helen Jones, my work colleague and friend Lyn Hall, and understanding Suzanne Brown.

My husband is one in a million. Thank you for the support, love, prayers and patience during this journey. Thank you for editing my work even in times when you were tired, for the advice given and the encouragement in times when I was ready to give up altogether and those cups of coffee. I love you! I also thank all my children for all their prayers, support and encouragement. You are my precious jewels I can never trade for anything else. I love you guys so much and always thank God for giving you to me.

I also thank my mummy and daddy for the support. Thank you for allowing me to use your van in the village. Thank you to my brother Wilfred, for going with me to the village for the first week of collecting data. To my Research Assistant Eunice Miti, you are appreciated. You made it so easy for me to live in the village.

Thank you to Laura Tiling, for editing my work critically. Andrew Lamin, my brother in the Lord: thank you for editing this work too. Your contribution has been appreciated. Thank you to Jolaade, my friend and sister. The tables and figures are brilliant!

I say thank you so much to the believers at Cathedral House (Huddersfield Christian Fellowship) for the spiritual, physical and financial support. God will richly bless you.

Finally, I say thank you to those not named and yet contributed to the completion of this study.


“The neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore.” (Mary Wollstonecraft)

1. 0 Introduction

The underlying purpose of this book is to investigate the effect of Zambian cultural traditions on the education of women. It focuses on the Tumbuka a patrilineal tribe in the Eastern Province of Zambia. The study will examine the processes through which cultural traditions are inculcated in the children especially the girls. This will be guided by different theoretical frameworks that will explain the underlying cause for the status of women among the Tumbuka.

This chapter is an introduction to the whole study therefore I will start by giving reason for undertaking this study and its particular interest on the choice of tribe. This will be followed by a brief historical account of the Tumbuka which will throw up a number of issues about the tribe and the different traditions practiced. A brief overview of the objectives of this study and the methodology employed in the investigation will be given. This chapter will also include a brief discussion of the definition of concepts that are used throughout the study to provide a clear understanding. The layout of the whole study is then set out.

1. 1 Inspiration for this book

The Tumbuka tribe is found in the Eastern Province of Zambia which is home to several districts; the Lundazi district being one. The 2003 Eastern Province annual report identified the Lundazi district as one where early marriages were still rampant (Zulu et al., 2003). The reasons for this have been attributed to a wide range of causes amongst which distance from schools, lack of teaching and learning resources, cultural traditions and poverty are identified. While the aforementioned have already been identified, I chose to focus on cultural traditions and critically investigate their effect on female education.

The current research has targeted the rural areas because they are the locus of cultural traditions. Much more, women in rural areas are the most affected by the traditions because the cultural requirements could be strictly demanded by society. The detailed reasons why the Tumbuka tribe has been given preference for study include the following:

I. Female Cultural Traditional Education

Chondoka and Bota (2007) argue that traditional education is of most importance among the Tumbuka because it was meant to be for life. Over seventy years earlier Young (1931) argued to the effect that the Tumbuka women are rigorously bound to traditions and were the most difficult to persuade into any modernisation within the women’s sphere. The fear that Tumbuka culture might be eroded is another interesting aspect that could be a reason for the dereliction of the education of the girl (Tembo, 2003; Chondoka and Bota, 2007). Rasing (2001) further argues that the Easterners[1] have a tendency of teaching young girls of pubescent age explicit marital information. Kelly et al claim that while in some parts of the Eastern Province it is prohibited to withdraw a female student from school for the purpose of undergoing an initiation rite, in Lundazi, among the Tumbuka, girls are still withdrawn from school for the “purpose of seclusion and initiation rites” (Kelly et al., 1999, p.112). I therefore see the Tumbuka tribe as an extreme case where the cultural traditions are still strong.

II. Patrilineal Status

The low position accorded to women in patrilineal systems is another reason why the Tumbuka have been considered for study. The existence of patriarchy and the patrilineal system suggest that men have the most dominant social status (Tembo, 2003) and have ownership of the land (Munthali, 2008). Such a position may have negative implications on the women and their participation in education.

III. Polygamy

The Tumbuka tribe like many other patrilineal tribes in the country, such as the Namwanga and Mambwe of Northern Province practice polygamy (Himonga, 1989). Chondoka and Bota (2007) claim that the practice of polygamy among the Tumbuka is intended to deal with the problem of the barren wife. There seem to be more emphasis on the biological capacity of the women which may render women mere vessels of child production. Polygamous families could be too big and too many children may not be easy to educate and hence the girls may be discriminated against on basis of lack of resources or as care givers to other siblings.

IV. The Lobola[2] System

Authors such as Chondoka have argued there is little accuracy or justification in calling the lobola custom ‘purchasing’ or ‘buying’ of a wife. He claims it is a payment for the marriage a claim that holds some form of truth as originally intended. However, by virtue of the payment the woman may have no rights over her children and herself. Such an arrangement could deprive the woman of any authority and of the right to make decisions, and may in turn affect the education of female children (Chondoka, 2001; Tembo, 2003; Chondoka and Bota, 2007; and Munthali, 2008).

V. Personal Interest

I am from the Chewa tribe, matrilineal by descent and my father lived and worked as a teacher in Lundazi district where I was born and lived for the first five years of my life. At 11 years old, when I reached puberty, I was traditionally taught during an initiation rite by the Tumbuka women. I was confined for two weeks in my own bedroom and was not able to go to school for that period. When I was ready to get married at the age of 22 years, I again went through a marital initiation rite for a week taught by the Tumbuka women. The topics taught at both initiation rites had a particular emphasis on male supremacy, appreciating and respecting men, and keeping my distance from men. Such teachings meant severing my relationship with my father; put a check on how I related to my brothers, especially my older brother, and all my male teachers. The process of teaching was aggressive, humiliating, demeaning and confusing, leaving me traumatised for a long time. Since then, I have attended initiation rites for young girls over the years and I have noted with sadness the same lessons I received in 1976 and 1986 respectively, are still taught with the same emphasis to date. Having had been taught by the Tumbuka women, I wanted to revisit the lessons and understand from the Tumbukas’ point of view the purposes for the topics taught and the rationale behind the whole process. This personal stand point will be clarified later in subsequent chapters.

In summary as noted above I see the Tumbuka tribe as an extreme case where the cultural traditions are still strong. By choosing an extreme example, with a strong standing for cultural traditions, the findings of the research could presumably be related to similar situations in the country. I believe the findings will have implications for the Zambian education system. The current global pursuit of Education For All (EFA) and the need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is a case in point here.

1. 2 The Tumbuka Tribe

There are six major tribal groups in the Eastern Province of which Tumbuka is one. While each tribal grouping has its own dialect, chiChewa[3] is commonly spoken by all groups: the language of the Tumbuka is chiTumbuka. The groupings have a rich array of cultural beliefs, customs and practices with slight variations (Tew, 1950; Kelly et al., 1999). Handelman defines ‘tribe’ as a description of a sub national grouping which share a “collective identity and language” (Handelman, 2003, p.86). Such a grouping may hold a common lineage. In this research I have adopted this definition to define the Tumbuka tribe.

Literature on the history of the Tumbuka is relatively limited. This is acknowledged by Chondoka and Bota (2007) who point out that their book is the first to give a correct historical account of the Tumbuka speaking people. They argue that the book contains valid historical information, which was collected from reliable sources (with Tumbuka elders) through in-depth interviews in a number of relevant settings in Malawi and Zambia. Before then, parts of the Tumbuka history were recorded in part in a number of books written by missionaries who did not give an accurate historical account (Chondoka and Bota, 2007). Chondoka and Bota argue that a common practice by the early writers was that of collecting data from one source, “writing the history of a country with reference to the acts of only one of the groups of people making up the country” (Chondoka and Bota, 2007, p.1).

The Tumbuka are part of the many and earliest waves of the Bantu immigrants from Pro-Bantu centre in Kola region of the DRC. Like many other tribes in Zambia such as the Bemba, the Chewa, and the Nsenga, the Tumbuka left the Luba Kingdom, although for different reasons. The Tumbuka broke away in the early 1400s because they did not like the embarrassing menial work they were expected to perform by their leaders. They settled in Malawi but due to population growth, there was need for more land for the purposes of agriculture and settlement, therefore one group left for Zambia and later settled in present day Lundazi and Chama Districts of the country (Young, 1931; Tew, 1950; Brelsford, 1965; Chondoka and Bota, 2007). According to Chondoka and Bota, the Tumbuka co-existed with the Saan who slowly left the area, settling in Namib and Kalahari Desert of present day Namibia and Botswana. This book focuses on the group that settled in Lundazi.

As earlier indicated, the Tumbuka are a distinct ethnic group that are found in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. They are a part of the collection of peoples that include the Kamanga, Henga, Tonga and other smaller units. They were once an important tribe and had occupied the whole of Luangwa valley but were raided and broken up by tribal wars (Tew, 1950; Brelsford, 1965). Brelsford further claims that through the raids and tribal wars, the Tumbuka assumed customs and traditions of other tribes. However, Chondoka and Bota (2007) deny the claim of tribal wars stating that oral history has not captured such history. They consider the Tumbuka as a peaceful tribe that put up no resistance to any tribe that subdued them except the Ngoni.

The Ngonis are described as fierce and inhuman warriors whose destruction of property and life was ruinous wherever they passed (Ogot, 1999). The Ngoni came raiding other tribes for food, men, women and cattle. The Tumbuka were conquered and their chiefs reduced to positions of headmen forcibly usurping their authority (Ogot, 1999; Chondoka and Bota, 2007). One sub-chief appointed to administer the conquered Tumbuka was Phikamalaza. Currently chief Phikamalaza is still under paramount chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni speaking people. Chief Phikamalaza is traditionally known as Nkosi[4].

The effect of the Ngoni colonisation of the Tumbuka brought new aspects of culture that exist to date. This agrees with Freire’s comment on cultural invasion:

Those invaded come to see their reality with the outlook of the invaders rather than their own: for the more they mimic the invaders the more stable the position of the latter become, [….] those invaded become convinced of their inferiority (Freire, 1987, p.153).

The Tumbuka were previously matrilineal but as a result of the Ngoni they took up the Ngoni patrilineal system. Young (1930) and Munthali (2008) argue that the coming and interaction with the Ngoni tribe changed the social organisation of the Tumbuka. These included the centralised form of chieftainship, the system of descent and payment of the bride wealth. Although Chondoka and Bota (2007) insist the Tumbuka are still matrilineal, the men still retain the most dominant social status and power, unlike the matrilineal groupings where authority lie in the hands of women. However, Cutrufelli (1983) has argued to the effect that matrilineal groupings do not imply a real social power of the woman.

Rogers (1980) states that in anthropological terms, patrilineal systems represent families where the children belong to their fathers’ line. Munthali (2008) has argued that patrilineal systems disadvantage women because they do not have access to land or other forms of property. Schneider and Gough, commenting on the position of women in these groupings, state that women are viewed as, “nothing more than a favourable medium for the development of the foetus” (Schneider and Gough, 1962, p.25). The position of women in patrilineal groupings seems to lay more emphasis on their reproductive system. There is more to a woman than just her reproductive system, emphasising the woman’s reproductive functions may deprive her of the power to stand for herself or her children, especially in a situation where her demeanour is dictated upon by those in authority. This may reduce a woman to a mere object. Such a position may be reason for expecting a woman to put on an unresponsive deportment, speak quietly and clearly but with downcast eyes in any public sphere. This could result in a woman losing her confidence and self esteem and hence she can only be represented by her father, brother, or son in any public sphere (Cutrufelli, 1983; Kelly, 1998). Kwesiga (2002) and Munthali (2008) have indicated that in patrilineal groupings, boys are considered of more significance than girls; therefore, the education of boys could be more valued than that of the girl.

The Tumbuka assumed the Ngoni patrilineal marriages as a means of identifying themselves with the new rulers. Hence, from 1898, lobola (dowry) was intensified by the Tumbuka. With the coming of the missionaries the term dowry was used in the place of lobola for lack of a better word. While dowry passes from the kin of the bride to those of the groom, lobola passes from the kin of the groom to those of the bride. The difference lies in the recipient. The Tumbuka called lobola payment Kuombola (redemption payment). This was because the payment gave a man rights over the marriage and the children from the girl’s family to the husband’s family. Chondoka claims that, “the children were by tradition owned by the husband after paying lobola” (Chondoka, 2001, p.198). Such a payment was in form of cows because the Tumbuka are cattle keepers. The number of cows to be paid for the lobola is determined by the woman’s family.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) (2002) has argued that women tend to be victims of lobola. Lobola does not benefit the woman. It benefits the men in her family; brothers, and father. Lobola seem to be paid for a woman’s reproductive capacity and hence could condemn the woman to marital enslavement and deny her control over decision-making (OMCT, 2002; Munthali, 2008). For this study, the implication of lobola could have an adverse effect on the education of a girl especially if her reproductive capacity and her ‘ lobola worth’ are considered of more value.

Chondoka rejects the notion that lobola represents ownership of a wife. Chondoka argues that lobola is a ‘marriage payment’ that “constitutes a seal of a marriage contract that the wife becomes the mother of the man’s children” ( Chondoka, 2001, p.15). As a seal of a marriage contract, it is similar to the modern day marriage certificate, so why has the marriage certificate not replaced the lobola practice ? It is clear here that the practice gives the man ownership rights to his wife and the status of ‘wife’ has relevance to the domestic sphere. Additionally, Munthali (2008) argues that by virtue of paying the bride wealth, the wife and the children become a vital part of the husband’s ancestry: if the bride wealth is not paid the marriage is not considered legitimate. Lobola has become so prevalent in Zambia that in urban areas some members of tribal groups where lobola was not traditionally paid have now taken up the custom making it of most importance.

Repaying the lobola would not be easy; making divorce an impossibility because the total amount of the lobola initially paid had to be repaid by the bride’s family. Traditionally for the Tumbuka tribe, divorce was primarily an option for the husband. However, in the 1990s it was a right claimed by women and often accorded to them by local courts. However, in the rural areas, it may not be easy for a woman to divorce the husband because of the cultural implications (Rogers, 1980; Tembo, 2003).

Polygamy, which Tembo (2003) describes as legal marriage of one man to two or more women, is widely practiced by the Tumbuka, who may have taken up the culture from the Ngoni. Chondoka and Bota (2007) claim polygamy may have solved the problem of barrenness in the woman, because the man could still marry another woman to bear him children. Such a reason is assumed as why the Tumbuka men marry more than one wife. Polygamous marriages result in the production of many children because each wife may be under pressure to produce children for the husband to remain in the marriage (Cutrufelli, 1983; Chondoka, 2001).

Like all the tribes in Zambia, the Tumbuka maintain extended family links. Hofstede (2005) refers to such societies as ‘collectivist.’ In such societies the interest of the group prevails over that of the individual. Therefore:

One owes lifelong loyalty to one’s group, breaking this loyalty is one of the worst things a person can do. Between the person and the in-group dependence relationship develops which is both practical and psychological (Hofstede, 1991, p.50).

Unlike the individualistic society, the aim of education in the collectivist society is to enable the members of the group to benefit from the individual’s achievements. In the Tumbuka society the boy could be most preferred because of his place in the family.

Generally speaking, the Tumbuka traditions could have a negative bearing on the education of girls because of the deeply ingrained cultural attitudes and practices. The patrilineal system does not help much because of its interest vested in the male children. Young (1931) argued that Tumbuka women tend to be bound in traditions making it difficult to change their circumstances.

The Tumbuka traditions, like any other traditions in Zambia, centre on productivity, new life, harvest and the commemoration of heroic deeds. All such celebrations are held throughout the year irrespective of the school calendar (involvement includes school children). Of these various ceremonies, the initiation ceremonies are of interest to this research because they represent the peak of traditional teaching for the female child and could affect negatively on the education of the girl (Rasing, 2001; Chondoka, 2001).

1. 3 Defining the Concepts

I. The Concept Of ‘Education’

The concept of education[5] has been given a number of meanings by different scholars such as Bartlett et al who state that “education in its broadest sense means the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to use the knowledge and develop skills” (Bartlett et al., 2001, p.3). Skills and knowledge are important elements in this definition but without understanding and being able to develop such skills as innovation, an individual would be ineffective. Bartlett et al (2001) further argue that education should enable an individual to link concepts for the purpose of gaining understanding of the world. Thus, education should involve the mind, reasoning and the mental processes. Clifford described education as “the deliberate, systematic and sustained effort to transmit or evoke knowledge, attitudes, values, skills and sensibilities” (Clifford 1985, p.6). The term ‘evoke’ is of particular interest here because it seems to indicate the process of arousing existing knowledge in the learner to cause them to reason critically and generate independent ideas. Therein lays the beauty of education.

The methodical process noted by Clifford brings in the function of the school system which deliberately informs and shapes learners through its designated curriculum. Cush (2004) insists that education should promote the development of the individual. Culture could influence individuals in a number of ways, restricting them to their own long held established customs, values and beliefs hence preventing them from meaningful changes.

II. The Concept Of ‘Culture’

Like education, culture is a contested word. Cush defines it as: “The learned aspects of a human that include languages, customs and beliefs and is passed on from generation to generation by means of socialisation and education” (Cush, 2004, p.8). This definition highlights the process of acquiring knowledge, and how it is handed down. It is the totality of everyday life that includes knowledge, norms, beliefs, values, customs, language, habits and skills that enable an individual to relate to others in the society. Put simply, culture could be defined as the personality and the heartbeat of a society, which gives an individual his/her cultural identity. Kwesiga quoting from Ermy’s essay on The Child and His Environment in Black Africa: Traditional Education, 1972, states that:

Custom proceeds man; it is a pre-established order from which it is impossible to break loose. To conform to it is to make oneself acceptable to the community at every level, and to benefit from its favours; to turn away from the established order is almost to exclude oneself, to excommunicate oneself (Kwesiga, 2002, p.57, citing Amy, 1972).

As cautioned by Kwesiga (2002), understanding this implication will help in assessing the factors that affect the education of women because it provides a basis for the explanations that are generally termed as ‘cultural,’ where customs demand adherence.

III. The Concept Of ‘Initiation’

In this study the initiate will refer to a female who has had her first menarche and is undergoing an initiation rite.[6] An initiation is a process, a ritual of transition, through which a new identity of a girl is constructed. It is a process through which the basis of adult life is laid down for an individual. According to Arnold Van Gennnep (1909) in his classic book titled Les rites de passage, there are three stages, these are: first, separation; when an individual is separated from others and confined to a house of initiation. Secondly, the marginalisation stage, which demonstrates the insignificance of the initiate. It is during this stage that the initiate is taught and equipped with an extensive body of societal traits that a woman is expected to have understood and used in order to know how to live her newly attained phase of life. Thirdly, the aggregation stage; it is during this stage that an initiate is incorporated into the new state (adulthood). This stage signifies the end of the whole initiation process and the exit is a public spectacle where the initiate is introduced to the rest of the community as an adult (Richards, 1956; Turner, 1969; Rasing, 1995; and Rasing, 2001).

There are two types of initiation rites that will be mentioned in this study, that is the pre-menarche and the pre-marital rites. Of particular interest is the pre-menarche rite which will simply be referred to as an initiation rite or ceremony. Reason to focus on the pre-menarche rite is because it is conducted on young girls who are in formal school. The concern here is the information the young girls receive during the initiation process and the significance for and possible effect it could have on her educational aspirations.

IV. The Concept Of ‘Tradition’

Tradition is another controversial concept. In defining the concept, Rasing (2001) notes that ‘tradition’ is a construction of the interaction of individuals through language and experiences which in turn form its complex identity mark. While traditions are a construction of the members of a given society there could be an element of the corpus of inherited culture characteristics that continues despite changes taking place. It is this ‘core’ of inherited culture that the tribe under study calls miambo (traditions) and in this study I will refer to ‘ miambo’ traditions as cultural traditions.

V. The Concept Of ‘Patrilineal’ Lineage

Segall et al point out that in a given society there are rules of descent, which are “ways in which persons in a society trace their ancestry” (Segall et al., 1990, p.7). Two of these are patrilineal and matrilineal descent. Members in matrilineal descent groupings trace their origin to the mother’s side while those in patrilineal descent groupings trace their origin to the father’s side.

A number of studies such as Young, (1930), Brelsford, (1965), Ogot, (1999), Munthali (2008) identify the Tumbuka tribe as patrilineal, a position they assumed after the invasion of the Ngoni, itself patrilineal. In patrilineal groupings, authority is vested in men by birth and the recruitment of new members is through the males. The role of women is to give birth to the descent group’s heir. While in matrilineal descent, group placement is through the women, the positions of highest authority still lie vested in men. A woman in authority will have to consult with the men to make an important decision (Schneider and Gough, 1962). It is important to understand here that the standing of these groupings has strong attachments to the members of a particular society and the implications could affect the members in different ways: for example the importance placed on the education of a child.

1. 4 The Structure of this Book

The structure of this book will be as follows. The current chapter has given a background to the Tumbuka tribe, where they are located in the country and reasons for the focus on this particular tribe. Inspiration for this book and my particular interest on the tribe has also been given. Chapter 2 will provide the statement of the problem to this study showing a number of statistics on the education of women in the country. The statistics provided are intended to show the number of girls in school in comparison to the boys. Although the statistics may not explain the reasons for the disparities among the number of girls and boys in school in the province, they are able to paint a picture of the low turn-out of girls participating in school education. Such information is valuable to this study and reason for the investigation. Background information to Zambia has been provided in the chapter in order to give the reader background for understanding the study. The discussion will include the location of Zambia in the region, its population and the education system. Information on education in the rural areas will be given, which is intended to show how disadvantaged Lundazi district is because it is predominantly rural. The chapter will end with an examination of Zambia’s global standpoint in relation to the education of women. This will be done in light of its commitment made towards the education of women in the country.

Chapter 3 outlines and discusses the different theories of gender inequalities and Human Capital Theory (HCT), which are expected to explain the problem being studied. A number of theories have been used to provide critical understanding and explanations to the factors that affect the education of women. Reference to the relationship between African feminisms and Western feminisms has been done with a focus on the criticisms of the Western feminists made by the African feminists.

Chapter 4 examines the nature of Zambian cultural traditions with a focus on the Tumbuka and gives background on some of the influential practices prevalent in the tribe that affect the education of women. Examples from the literatures will be used in discussion to establish the need to investigate the phenomenon. Chapter 5 will discuss, argue and justify the methodological case used to collect the data for this study. A number of issues such as the procedures used for collecting data, sampling strategy, reliability and validity of the investigation, research ethics and the method of analysis used to translate raw data into findings will be discussed. Chapters 6 and 7 cover the discussions on the findings and analysis of the study and Chapter 8 concludes with a summary of some of the broad themes of this study. The recommendations this study will raise will also be part of Chapter 8.


2. 0 Introduction

The importance of the education of women has topped many agendas both locally and internationally for decades. However the factors that affect access and participation of women in education are many with social cultural implications being one. The reality of social cultural implications as cause for the low participation of women in education can no longer be ignored. Choosing to focus on other factors may explain the continued state of women in many developing countries. Chapter 1 has explained the purpose for this investigation and in this chapter, the statement of problem will throw up a number of issues such as education in the rural areas and the effect cultural traditions could have on female education and the current state of the education of girls in the country. The education system of Zambia and its implications on the education of girls will be given attention. The analysis of the problem will serve to argue and justify the purpose of the research; a number of statistics will be used as evidence of the number of girls that are not in school. The discussion will include background information to Zambia, its location in Africa, population, its economy. Information on Eastern Province and in particular Lundazi district, which is home to the Tumbuka tribe, will be provided. This will further give the reader a clear understanding of the place where the data were collected. A brief discussion of the objectives and the methodological case used to collect the data will be done. This will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 5.

The landlocked position of Zambia does not have a direct effect on its education system. However, the number of refugees in the country has affected on its population, security and economy. The population and economic standing of the country has its own implications on the education system such as overcrowded classrooms, inadequate teaching and learning resources and the like. The Zambian education system remains a copy of its former colonial masters (Britain) with slight changes made over the years that seem to fail to show evidence in its educated masses. The colonial impact on the local people continues to impact on their attitude towards the education of their children much more that of the female child. The pedagogy in use is predominantly teacher centred which cultivates rote learning, the memorisation of concepts rather than critical investigation skills in the learners.

A discussion on education in the rural area, of which Lundazi is, will be done as part of the statement of the problem because the rural areas have their own effect on the education of girls. The lack of resources can easily exacerbate the factors that negatively impact on female education. For example the lack of learning resources such as books could reinforce absenteeism in both boys and girls however for the girl it could create opportunities to engage in house hold chores.

Zambia’s participation in international and regional conferences on the education of women is discussed. This background is important because Zambia’s commitment to the education agenda worldwide affects its approach to the education of all its citizens in both rural and urban areas. Further the pursuit to achieve the goals set out, such as the MDGs can guide and inform any research or advocacy on the education of women. The government has a moral responsibility to ensure that the commitments made are honoured in practice not only in principle. Zambia is not exempted from the many regional and international instruments towards the education of women, hence, the need to minimise or eliminate the factors that militate against the education of girls deserve attention. This brings up the discussion on the statement of the problem to this investigation which is the focus of the section that follows.

2. 1 Stating the Problem

I. The Location Of Zambia

Located in the southern part of Africa, Zambia lies between the equator and the tropical of Capricorn. It has a total surface area of 753, 000sq km of which about 12,000sq km is water and 741,000sq km is land and covers 2.5 percent of Africa (Zambia, 2000; CSO, 2003; Zambia, 2005; and CSO, 2006). It is a landlocked country, which shares boundaries with 8 countries; Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, Tanzania, and Namibia. Despite being neighbour to some warring nations, such as DRC, Zambia remains one of the peaceful nations in the region and hence provides sanctuary to hundreds of thousands of refugees (CSO, 2003). While Zambia has been able to provide sanctuary to refugees, this has put strain on the struggling economy. Eastern Province remains home to a number of refugees from Mozambique who have not been able to return back.

Zambia is divided into administrative provinces and each one has each own districts. The Copperbelt and Lusaka Province are predominantly urban with the rest being rural: about four out of ten Zambians live in urban areas (CSO, 2003). The Eastern Province is fairly narrow and shares boundaries with Malawi and Mozambique. See the map of Zambia below:

Figure 1 ~ Map of Zambia showing its Neighbours, Provinces and Districts

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Source: Maps of the World (2009). Accessed on 08/01/09

*The pointer shows Lundazi district, home to the Tumbuka tribe under study.

Eastern Province with a population of 1.7 million of which men are 836,000 and women is 871. 566 is divided into districts one of which is Lundazi. Lundazi as shown on the map above is home to the Tumbuka tribe with a population of 16,017 thousand according to the year 2010 census results. This population is just for Lundazi district and excludes the thousands that do not live in the district but have moved on to other towns for purposes of work, marriage and other reasons. The province is home to the Luangwa National Park that is divided into two; Northern and Southern Parks. The Northern Park lies near Lundazi district and is about 4, 600sq km of the valley of the Luangwa River. The park is not developed and is not open to the public except guided walking safaris (CSO, 2003; Zambia, 2003; Tembo, 2003; CSO, 2010). However, the district does not benefit much from any revenue. Mvula (2000) writing on fair trade in tourism in Southern Luangwa National Park, argued that despite the notable rewards of tourism development, the benefits are rarely distributed equitably with the local people. Mvula identifies the unequal discrimination in the employment practice as one area where the indigenous people have been discriminated against.

II. The Population and the People

The current population of Zambia is estimated at 13 million of which 51.5 percent are women and 48.5 percent are men (Zambia, 2009 CSO, 2010 and World Bank, 2011). Zambia has about 73 ethnic linguistic Bantu speaking groups or tribes dispersed in its provinces. The main languages are Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Kaonde, Luvale, and Lunda with each having a cluster of dialects. English remains the nation’s official language, a situation that is as a result of the British colonization (Zambia, 2000; Zambia, 2009). Wright (2003) has argued that colonizing states introduced their languages to the local people targeting the children. Consequently, English became the official language of instruction in schools the situation that currently threatens the indigenous languages.

Previously known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia gained political independence from its colonial master (Britain), on the 24th of October 1964 and adopted the multiparty system of governance, which lasted until December 1972 when the one party system based on the socialist ideology was introduced. In 1991, Zambia peacefully re-introduced the multiparty system currently in place. This change saw an improvement in the country’s economy attracting donor support and much of the rundown basic infrastructure such as schools and roads were rehabilitated. Liberalization of the country’s economy also saw the growth of privately owned schools that provided competition to government owned schools hence improving the fallen standards of teaching and learning (Zambia, 2000; CSO, 2003; McPherson, 2004; and Zambia, 2005).

III. The Education System

Despite Zambia obtaining independence from Britain, the education system was one of the most poorly developed in the region, poor in quantity and quality, targeting a few Zambians (Achola, 1990; Silanda et al., 1999). Authors such as Achola, (1990), Kelly (1999), and Carmody (1999) have argued that the colonial system of education did not benefit the majority of Zambians. Wright, commenting on the development of education, states that the colonizers considered the colonized people as “inferior, degenerate, savage and in need of improvement” (Wright, 2003, p.219). He argues that if the colonizers held the colonized people with such a low view, as ‘backward heathens’, how could they have enabled them to appreciate the ‘truth’ except through education.

However, what is questionable is the nature of knowledge that was imposed upon the colonized people through the education system: It tended to benefit the colonizing states by creating useful ‘servants’ out of the indigenous people for the colonizing nation. Therefore the indigenous people were equipped with restricted knowledge acquired through the memorisation of facts and specific skills to undertake clerical/serviceable duties on behalf of the colonizing nation. Such type of education did not benefit the majority of Zambians let alone the female population. The pedagogy used was rote learning rather than the discovery learning, a system that remains in operation up until now (Achola, 1990; Wright 2003). Carmody (1999) and Kelly (1999) insist that the colonial master showed little interest in promoting local schooling; Carmody (1999) commenting on the history of education in Zambia, indicates that the British South African Company (BSAC) which administered the territory then made it impossible for the local people, especially the women, to gain access to education provision in order to keep them ignorant. Such a situation left Zambia with a limited pool of educated resources at independence (Carmody, 1999; Kelly, 1999; and Machinshi, 2004). Further still, Ewen states that “the philosophy, aims and type of colonial education were only designed to permit a small fraction of African children to enter school” (Ewen, 2000, p.6).

The small fraction cited by Ewen attended primary school, and a few attained secondary levels, while tertiary education was neglected. The resources amassed by the colonial master in the country were instead pumped into Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) which was the colony’s headquarters. Carmody (1999) and Kelly (1999) state that as at independence on the 24th of October 1964, Zambia only had one university with a few colleges offering tertiary education. The majority of the students in these institutions were male, for example the only university in the country then had one hundred and seven (107) students of which only four (4) were female (Kasonde, 2003).

Zambia has a three-tiered educational system consisting of nine years of basic education[7], three years of high school and the last stage of four years plus for the post secondary education. Progression from one level to another is through an external national examination. Such a system tends to restrict entrance of the majority of students to the next level, especially the secondary level, creating a huge bank of drop-outs with limited potential of employable skills. This stands as a case for the Tumbukas and the rest of the country, where a number of girls may fail to progress to secondary level due to failure to meet the grade expected. This could be due to lack of time to study as a result of chores expected of them at home (Kelly et al., 199).

Table 1 ~ Different levels of the Zambian Education System

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The Zambian educational system comprises a multi structure that includes the Early Childhood Care, Development and Education (ECCDE), basic education, high education, literacy education, and tertiary education illustrated in Ministry of Education is in charge and responsible for the operation of primary and secondary education, training and universities. Despite pre-schooling having been given so many advocacies by the Ministry, the greater number of pre-schools is in private hands making it an expensive level of education. The Ministry is also responsible for the formulation of education polices. The recent major education policies stated in the Strategic Plan and The Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) are broad operational frameworks, which are intended to guide the attainment of the goals and objectives of education in the country (Educating Our Future, 1996; Silanda et al., 1999; and MOE, 2005).

The policy document, Educating Our Future 1996, is the most recent document formulated by the Ministry of Education. The policy of the Ministry is to provide quality education to all its citizens. This policy is guided by strategic polices that form the guiding principles within which education is delivered. These strategic policies include:

- The Ministry of Education will ensure that every child has access to nine years of good quality education. As the first step to the attainment of the goal of universal basic education the Ministry of Education will ensure that every child will have access to a minimum of seven years of good quality schooling in a school of parental choice (MOE, 1996, p.22).
- The overall goal of basic education is to provide each pupil with a solid intellectual, practical and moral foundation that will serve as a basis to a fulfilling life. Hence it will seek to provide a comprehensive programme of study and school activities that will:
- Promote the full and harmonious development of every pupil
- Give some preparation for adult working life
- Serve as a basis for further training; and
- Lead to the level of competence necessary for proceeding to high school (MOE, 1996, p.44).

The factors impacting on the implementation of educational policies in Zambia are many some of which, poor economy, inadequate supply of teachers, curriculum relevance, pedagogy (rote learning rather than discovery learning), high rates of unemployment especially after primary and secondary school (Achola, 1990, MOE, 1996; and FNDP 2006-2010, 2006).

Figure 2 ~ Limitations of the Education System

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This study insists that education is one means of empowering the women to take control of their lives and those of their children however, the Zambian education system is a case in point. Ewen (2000) has rightly suggested that Zambian formal education has not helped much in terms of providing mass skilling for the nation. He lists a number of points to show the limitations of the education system. See Figure 2. Such an education system that exhibits little or has no significance to the cultural or socio-economic environments may not be appreciated, much more when compared with the traditional education system, which is rigorous and involves experiential learning within the context of the learner.

IV. The State Of Girl’s Education In Zambia

The importance of education is a well-known fact: Zambia’s policy on education states that education is a right of every child (Educating Our Future, 1996). Swain, (2005) citing Aristotle (1967), explains that the fundamental intention of education is the realization of a ‘good life ’. Kaziba (1997) declares that it is only through education that the female population of Africa can be empowered. However, despite the importance of the education of girls being advocated for decades in many forums and conferences, Zambia still registers disturbing statistics in this matter. Zambia’s population of 51.5 percent women and 48.5 percent men has the “illiteracy rate of women at 40 percent while that of men is 19 percent” (Zambia, 2009, p.1). While this research recognizes government’s effort in attempting to provide quality education, and 100 percent enrolment of all children, it questions the definition of quality education imparted through rote learning.

Access to basic education grades 1–7 has improved, which is attributed to free education provided for that level. The Gross Enrolment Ratio[9] (GER) for grade 1 – 9 has increased from 71.1 percent in 2002 to 89.8 percent in 2004, while the Net Enrolment Ratio[10] (NER) has increased from 68.1 percent in 2002 to 79.4 percent in 2004 (FNDP, 2006, p.150). However, despite such improved statistics, significant disparity between male and female pupils still exist and should be cause for worry and a key concern by all concerned. Girls represented a GER of 86.4 percent in 2004 against 93.2 percent that of boys and a completion rate of 65.8 percent and 78.3 percent respectively (FNDP, 2006, p.150).

Enrolment rates have improved greatly showing more girls than boys enrolling in grade 1. For example in 2005, 444,300 pupils enrolled in grade 1 of which 225, 231 were female and 219,069 were male (MOE, 2005, p.23). Table 2 below shows gender disparity in basic school enrolment, with the girls trailing behind the boys despite improvement at primary level. These statistics could suggest poor female progressing to further education.

Table 2 ~ Enrolment in Basic Schools by gender in Zambia

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The table below (table 3) shows the low enrolment level in all provinces in Zambia except for Lusaka and Copperbelt, which are highly urban. While the statistics may suggest a number of reasons such as poor infrastructure, poor teaching and learning resources in the rural areas, the statistics do not show the actual populations of the individual provinces which could be higher in the highly urbanised provinces. However, Central Statistics Office (2003) states that more than 50 percent of Zambians live in the rural area. Note the total numbers for both girls and boys nationally showing the low enrolment for the girls.

Table 3 ~ Enrolment In Basic Schools By Gender And Province

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(MOE, 2005, p.24)

Zambia has three entrance levels into education. These are: grade 1, grade 10 entrances and entry into tertiary institutions that include colleges and university. For the purpose of this document, ‘access’ will refer to the right of entry into education at any level at which one is admitted or enrolled. 7 years is the nationally recognized enrolment age in the country. Currently this has been relaxed to enable as many children as possible to enrol in line with EFA commitment (FAWE, 2004). The move has improved the enrolment rate.

Table 4 ~ GER High Schools 16 – 18 (Grade 10 – 12) By Gender And Province

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(MOE, 2005, p.31)

Table 4 shows the GER in high school by gender and province. The outstanding disparities with more boys enrolled than girls in high schools are noteworthy. Interestingly, Eastern Province (in bold) ranks as the worst in the female enrolment ratio, indicating how few females progress to high school in the province. An interesting observation can be noted between Eastern and Northern Provinces. The two are neighbours but Northern Province seems to be doing better than Eastern Province as observed in Tables 4 and 5 a situation that may require further research. While the statistics show Northern Province ahead of Eastern Province, the statistics do not show the population of pupils enrolled in the particular year or the population of the two different provinces.

Table 5 ~ Shows the Survival Rate to grade 5 by Province (2005)

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(MOE, 2005, p.41)

In 2005, up to 8,856 girls against 14,365 boys completed grade 12 with school certificates. In 2006, 10,773 girls and 17,017 boys completed grade 12 with school certificates. In 2006, 150,000 boys and 250,000 girls aged between 16 and 18 years were out of school (Kasonde et al., 2007, p.23). Of significant note in these statistics is the huge margin between the girls and the boys out of school and completing secondary school with school certificates.

The dropout rates in both basic and high schools in the country are still significant. While more girls are able to access education easily, the retention and completion rates are still low. The question worth asking is “where is the girl who enrolled in grade 1 seven years ago or 12 years ago?” Ministry of Education (2005) claims that fewer girls than boys will reach grade 5 indicating that boys are more likely to reach grade 5. Eastern Province seems to be among the worst provinces in the country with a low survival rate. The survival rate[11] in table 4 shows this activity. CAMFED Zambia, (2007) argues that the transition of girls from grade 4 to grade 5 (those enrolled at 7 years would be 10 or 11 years and the late entries could be 13 to 14 years) is particularly difficult because of a number of factors, such as early or forced marriages, pregnancies and due to traditional teachings that they receive during initiation rites when they reach puberty.

Tables 6 and 7, show the dropout rate for both basic and high schools and the disparity across provinces and by gender. The statistics seem to indicate the disproportion with more girls dropping out than boys.

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Table 6 ~ Dropout rate for Basic Schools by Gender and Province 2005

(MOE, 2005, p.41).

The difference between genders is quite alarming in some cases raising concern on the state of the girls. For example, table 7 for North Western Province (7.02 girls and 2.16 boys). Although statistics show Eastern Province faring better on the dropout rates in comparison with Northern and North-Western Provinces, more girls than boys could have dropped out of school. Further still, the enrolment percentages for Eastern, Northern and North-Western Province could be different hence producing the noted disparity. The statistics given are inconclusive and may not give full information regarding the drop-out rates. For example, the statistics do not show the total numbers enrolled in each province. The statistics suggest an investigation into the reasons for the number of dropouts.

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Table 7 ~ Dropout rates for High School students by Gender and Province (2005)

(MOE, 2005, p.41)

Among the reasons that have been raised as contributing to such a phenomenon include pregnancies, early or forced marriages and poverty. Such factors could contribute to the high dropout rate (Gachukia, 2004). Gachukia further attributes the multiple roles that girls tend to play in society as contributing to their late enrolment, absenteeism and consequently dropout tendencies. However, recent statistics still show that female participation in education is low in comparison with their male counterparts. For example statistics reveal that 48 percent of women aged 15-49 and 75 percent of men aged 15-59 can read and write while 79 percent of women and 90 percent of men of the same age group in the urban area can read and write (MOE, 2005).

Table 8 ~ 15 to 24 year olds literacy Rate by Province (2000)

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(MOE, 2005, p.46)

Table 8 shows the discrepancy in the literacy[12] rate between male and female population and between the rural and urban settings. Eastern Province had the lowest rate at 42.6 percent and the rate for women remains low in all provinces. The Ministry of Education indicates that a high adult literacy rate may suggest the existence of an effective primary education system and/or adult literacy programmes which have enabled a large proportion of the population to acquire the ability of using the written word and to do “simple arithmetic calculations in daily life” (MOE, 2005, p.46). However, Ewen (2000) has argued that many of the primary school students drop out without attaining functional literacy and hence may simply slip back into ignorance. Commenting on illiteracy rates FNDP (2006), points out that rates are higher among women (75 percent) than men (65 percent). This has been attributed to “high dropout rates and lower completion rates (75.1 percent for girls and 95.4 percent) for boys in primary schools” (FNDP, 2006, p.313). Remarking on the same matter, Muranga (1997) revealed that drop outs tend to have a low academic aspiration, which she stressed, could be as a result of upholding a traditional attitude to cultural norms and practices.

Commenting on the retention rates, CAMFED Zambia claims that “between 2000 and 2002, the retention rate for girls in grade 1 to grade 7 was 56 percent compared to 69 percent for boys” (CAMFED Zambia, 2007, p.10). In 2004, the retention rates were 78 percent for boys and 66 percent for girls. The statistics show a staggering improvement for girls and boys but the gap between the two sexes remains the same. Further still, ZDEGC (1995) affirms that the lowest girls’ enrolment and completion rates were found in districts with the highest rates of adult illiteracy of which Eastern Province is part of.

V. Zambia’s Economy

Zambia has boasted an improved economic growth of 5.5 percent per annum after the external debt cancellation of $7.16 billion to $0.5 billion by World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2008. Such an outcome should enable the government to redirect resources that have been freed from the debt cancellation to the education sector in order to make education free of direct cost for the underprivileged. The country’s economy depends heavily on copper that remains the major economic activity. The opening of new mines and the expansion of old ones since 2006 has unfortunately not produced any marked improvement in the lives of most Zambians as millions of them continue to live below the World Bank poverty threshold of $1 a day. However, there has been growth in the construction, and transport sectors. Agriculture, a sector the country hopes to depend upon rather than copper, seems to face major setbacks due to erratic rain patterns and persistent drought (McPherson, 2004; CAMFED Global Campaign for Education, 2004; Zambia, 2007; and DFID, 2008). USAIDS (2008) indicate that the education system in Zambia has suffered a decline over the past two decades as a result of a drop in national revenue linked to the low copper prices and substantial increase in fuel cost.

The recent ‘credit crunch’ has not spared the country due to the fact that mines that are run by international companies have either closed down, releasing thousands of workers into the unemployment category or have simply laid off workers. The Copperbelt, the main mining province of the country, is the worst hit. The BBC News Channel, on the 16 June 2009 estimated that since 2008, 8,200 jobs were lost in Zambia’s biggest Copper Mining Company due to the global economic downturn (BBC News Channel, 2009). Cramer et al (2009) equally affirm the shutting down of copper mines in Zambia, a situation that has resulted in loss of jobs. Meanwhile, 68 percent of Zambians still live in poverty and the country remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It is estimated that two – thirds of Zambia’s population live on less than $1 a day, which is an estimate of 7.5 million people (DHS, 2002; Zambia, 2003; McPherson, 2004; NGOCC, 2006; and CAMFED Zambia, 2007).

VI. The Implications of Poverty

A number of literature such as DHS (2002), Zambia (2003), McPherson (2004), NGOCC (2006) and CAMFED Zambia (2007) estimate that 68 percent of Zambians still live in poverty and the country remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It is further estimated that two – thirds of Zambia’s population live on less than $1 a day, which is an estimate of 7.5 million.

The 2004 living conditions monitoring survey report identified the province as having a high incidence of poverty. The report suggests that 70 percent of the population in the province are extremely poor, which could be attributed to persistent droughts and floods (CSO, 2004). Ndonyo (2005) pointed out that poverty is also exacerbated by low education; a situation Kapungwe (2004) explains narrows the options for the acquisition of resources to satisfy basic needs. Todaro and Smith define poverty as a low level of living, which is characterised by “inadequate housing, poor health, limited education, high infant mortality, low life and work expectancies” (Todaro and Smith 2003, p.47). This suggests the extent to which the people are unable to command adequate resources to gratify their essential needs.

The MOE (2006) agrees that a literate nation is more likely to develop than an illiterate one, because the citizens are more knowledgeable about the realities of life and would have better skills. The low levels of education and skills can make it hard for developing nations to expand new industry and make the people less adaptable and agreeable to change (Thirlwall, 2003). Poverty can be pervasive and its outcomes incapacitating and unfortunately women seem to be the most vulnerable to poverty which could be attributed to their low education achievement (World Bank, 2005).

VII. The Implications Of HIV/AIDS In Zambia

According to UNAIDS (2008) Sub Saharan Africa accounts for more than two thirds (68 percent) of people living with HIV. It is claimed UNAIDS (2008) that Zambia has one of the world’s most devastating HIV and AIDS epidemics. The first AIDS case was reported in 1984 and since the HIV epidemic has spread to all parts of its society. In Zambia, a total of 1200 000 adults are living with HIV. Of this total, 610 000 are women, which could demonstrate that women are more likely to be infected with HIV than men (UNAIDS, 2008; WHO, 2008). The young women and girls seem to be at higher risk and vulnerable of contracting HIV/AIDS because of lack of knowledge and skills to protect themselves from infection, lack of empowerment: hence they remain completely dependent on the man and fail to leave a relationship that threatens them with infection. Societal factors such as cultural norms impose lopsided and more passive roles for women in sexual decisions and traditional instructions teach the woman not to refuse the husband sex, tolerate his infidelity and not to insist the use of a condom (Ndonyo, 2005; UNAIDS, 2008).

If women are 51.5 percent of Zambia’s 13 million population, then a lower proportion of men are infected than women on these figures. The UNAIDS (2008) suggests that girls are four times more likely to be infected with HIV than the boys, a situation, which could be exacerbated by gender norms, poverty and a lack of education. Studies such as Barnighausen et al (2007) and Hargreaves et al (2008) have shown that education is an excellent tool that could aid the reduction of HIV risk and vulnerability. Further still, the authors claim that each added year of educational achievement could lessen the risk of HIV infection by seven percent in girls. Unfortunately the Ministry of Education in Zambia has not done much in terms of AIDS education because HIV/AIDS has been viewed as a health issue (MOE, 2000). Unfortunately, there remains a lack of HIV/AIDS education and support services for students and teachers. Teachers are just beginning to come forward for HIV counseling and testing (USAID, 2010). There are currently a number of programs being run by the Ministry through health education programmes, the development of life-skills, sexuality and personal relationship programmes to disseminate information on formation of attitudes in relation to HIV/AIDS. Further still, the curriculum for both primary and secondary schools has been revised to include HIV and its implications (MOE, 2000; USAID, 2010).

Sexual abuse has progressively increased in Zambia with a belief of what is called "virgin cure,"[13] It is an act that fuels much of the abuse connected with HIV transmission involving the sexual abuse of children. Men are targeting increasingly younger sexual partners whom they assume to be HIV-negative (Jere, 2003). Jere (2003) claims that an increased proportion of the abusers are HIV-positive and many transmit their infection to their victims. While AIDS Care (2008) claim that HIV is prevalent in cities rather than in poor rural areas, there are a number of viable strategies of disseminating information such as television, and radios which may not be possible in poor areas. According to AIDS Care (2008) the spread of HIV in rural areas is mostly through seasonal agricultural workers who travel to big cities to sell their produce. The lack of education and prevalent cultural traditions could worsen the situation in rural areas as noted above. Kelly (2000) claims that some rural areas have accused teachers of being responsible for the introduction and spread of HIV/AIDS. Such a claim deserves attention because according to ILO (2002) one of the roles of the teachers is to counsel their pupils in relation to AIDS issues. Finally while poverty in itself may not inevitably risk infectivity, the combination of gender and poverty presents risk and vulnerability hence the need to education empowerment that could drastically change gender norms.

VIII. Education In The Rural Area

As already been discussed at the beginning of this section, Lundazi district is predominately rural and the discussion of this section shows how education in the rural set-up is disadvantaged. The government is very much aware of the fact that the female child living in a poor illiterate rural environment and in a remote part of the country is most severely disadvantaged educationally. Such political recognition calls for an in-depth analytical research in order to understand factors militating against and undermining the education of girls (ZDEGC, 1995; FAWE, 2006).

Shabaya and Agwemang (2004) point out that, women in rural areas are more affected by customs and beliefs than those in the urban areas, which they attribute to a social pressure to conform to the expected rules and values. This could be precipitated effectively by the agents and institutions, which transmit beliefs and customs and which sanction deviant behaviour. Nyirenda (2008) argued that the community is a powerful force and members are under pressure to adhere to its expectations. Members tend to be under pressure to conform and therefore, such pressure to conform and other forces could exert influence on their thinking, feelings and choices made. Akuffo (2007) further claims that a lot of women are not educated in rural areas as a result of prejudice and beliefs that insist that women are only meant to take care of homes. While there could be nothing wrong with women taking care of homes, it should not be seen as the only institution or speciality that they are meant for.

Education in a rural environment continues to lag behind the education in the urban environment because there the shortcomings that may militate against female education abound such as the lack of resources. The tables earlier shown in the chapter arguably show clearly the number of girls in schools especially in Eastern Province. This could affect both the girls and boys however the girls seem to be the most affected (Kelly et al., 1999; CAMFED Zambia, 2007). Gachukia (2004) claims that schools and families tend to target boys rather than girls due to traditional attitudes that assume that girls’ education is a poor investment in terms of returns. Additionally, rural areas may stand to benefit if most of the community was to acquire education, because they may be capable of improving their environment in similar line with their way of life. The improved environmental conditions may attract the urban dwellers and in turn this would gradually improve the infrastructure such as roads and better-constructed houses (Akuffo, 2007). Thirlwall (2003) indicates that good and adequate infrastructure could improve productivity, diversify productivity and further reduce the cost of production.

The government initiative[14] to build many schools throughout the nation has been commended because the government claim it could improve the enrolment of children into schools. This is one of government’s initiatives aimed at achieving the MDGs. But while schools can be built in every corner of the country, without workable strategies to remove the factors affecting girls and women, not much may be done to improve their education. The accelerated government programmes to produce many teachers to cater for rural environments and replace those dying from HIV/AIDS has created teachers who are unproductive due to a rudimentary stock of general and professional knowledge (Kelly, 1999). The subject of HIV/AIDS has been discussed above.

The disadvantages of an uninspired, moribund education system and the negative impact it could have on its pupils cannot be underestimated as shown by UNESCO who claims that such a school system would offer:

Lifeless education that deprives the child of all initiative stifles his personality and does not develop any useful aptitudes for when he leaves school; he forgets rapidly everything he has learned, and more often than he slips back into illiteracy. Moreover, this arid teaching is stultifying for the mind because it is sterile and of no interest either to the teacher or his pupil (UNESCO, 1974, pp.22-23).

Although this document was written over 33 years ago, such a reality still exists in Zambian schools. The memorisation pedagogy is capable of producing such a leaner who quickly forgets what is assumed learnt and slips back into ignorance. The urban schools might be better, but the situation could be in its worst state in rural environments where, despite attaining basic education, pupils simply slip back into illiteracy. Ewen (2000) cited earlier in the chapter alluded to this outcome. Such a classroom environment as described above is even more harmful, suppressive and incapacitating. For example the Global Campaign for Education (2004) pointed out that Zambian school children receive 630 hours of instruction per year, which is equivalent to two hours contact time with the teacher because of the shortage of teachers. Such contact only allows a part of the curriculum to be covered and hence reinforce the teacher centred pedagogy which further stultifies both the learner and the teacher. Therefore, such an environment; poor infrastructure that needs urgent rehabilitation, little equipment, inadequate supplies of textbooks and learning materials, with soaring pupil teacher ratios and unmanageable class sizes, and unresponsive pedagogy, one wonders how difficult learning and teaching can be. The acclaimed advantages and benefits of school could be minimal or non-existent in such environments. The Strategic Plan 2007 – 2010, MOE (2007) draft stated that the problem in rural areas was not about lack of places, but about the lack of teachers and the deplorable conditions of the existing classrooms. It was identified that 25 percent of the existing classrooms were in poor condition, making effective learning and teaching an impossibility. To alleviate this problem the Strategic Plan suggested the training of more teachers and redeployment of the existing teachers to rural areas. However, this remedy may not help to keep girls in schools. One factor that the Strategic Plan, unfortunately does not identify is the negative impact of the cultural traditions, which could be the real hold-up of rural education. Parents seem to have the capacity to pull girls out of school and the law does not seem to stand its ground (MOE, 2003).

The Government’s initiative of offering free education for grades 1 to 9 (although currently it is free only from 1 to 7 due to lack of resources) should be commended, however, other school requirements such as school uniforms, books, and shoes have defeated their effort especially in rural areas where parents without any source of income are unable to afford these things: with such requirements it is not free education (MOE, 2005; CAMFED Zambia, 2007).

The pregnancy–re-admission policy[15], an initiative of Forum for African Women Educationist of Zambia (FAWEZA), was one of the many projects that aimed at eliminating gender disparities in order to achieve gender equality in education. It has not benefited the young women significantly in the rural area, where the environment may further encourage the factors militating against the education of girls (NGOCC, 2005; FNDP, 2006). Further still it has been established by Sifuniso (2004) that re-admission in rural areas start in grade 1 indicating that the girls could be enrolled late into school or it could be due to prevalence of early marriages.

For example, in 2006 statistics reveal that of 1,291 girls who left school due to pregnancy in Eastern Province, only 419 were re-admitted into school, in Lusaka, 860 girls left pregnant and only 411 were re-admitted (Kasonde et al., 2007, p.26). While a small number of girls managed to be re-admitted into school, a bigger number did not. It is not clear if the initiative includes care for the babies because that could be a reason the girls’ failure to return to school if they are expected to persuade relatives to take care of the babies. There is need to investigate the factors that affect the education of women and this call for more research.

2. 2 Research Objectives and Methodology

This section briefly discusses the objectives of the possible research approaches. The application of the approaches is fully discussed in the methodology chapter. The aim of this study is to critically assess the effect of cultural traditions on the education of women. The following overall research objectives are intended to guide this research.

In the case of the Tumbuka tribe:

1. To establish the purpose of traditional teachings.
2. To critically assess the importance of education to the women.
3. To critically evaluate the link between traditional teachings and the high illiteracy rates of women.
4. To make recommendations to the Ministry of education based on the findings.

The research questions will be discussed in chapter 5. The mode employed to find the answers to the above research objectives is a naturalistic approach, chosen because it is unstructured and hence flexible, and appropriate to an enquiry whose objectives have descriptive, explanatory and exploratory elements.

The methodological design used in this study is chiefly ethnography, however it cuts through other designs such as anthropology and case study. Ethnography assumes an anthropological stance here because of its focus on a particular society and its culture. This approach is believed to have been originally developed by anthropologists who studied different cultures by immersing themselves in them for a long period of time. In the same way, ethnography requires a complete or at least partial integration in a particular society for the purpose of collecting the needed information in situ. This is done through sharing the experiences of those studied, understanding the reasons for their action and viewing the world from their point of view (Denscombe, 2007).

The case study design on the other hand concentrates on a specific situation such as a study of one or more local communities. It is concerned with the interactions of events or actions shaped by the meanings of the participants in order to give a full picture of the interactions (Verma and Marlick, 1999; Pring 2000; and Bell, 2005). Robson states that a case study involves the description and analysis of “patterns of and relations between main aspects of community life” (Robson, 2000, p.181). In this research I concentrated on a local community used this approach in order to understand the effect that Tumbuka cultural traditions could have on the education of girls. The voices of the participants are included in the report of the findings in order to give the reader enough information to understand the outcomes and validate the possible applicability of the findings to other communities (Maykut and Morehouse, 1994).

To collect the necessary data the following methods have been used throughout: unstructured interviews including in-depth and focus group interviews; narratives and participant observations; and secondary sources. The secondary sources comprised government documents such as Programme for the Advancement of Girl’s Education (PAGE) reports, Non-Governmental Organisations' (NGOs) annual reports, statistics registrations, school register, and reports published in newspapers. This research takes into account ethical requirements and factors such as bias, reliability, maintenance of objectivity, ethics of the process of collecting, analysing and interpreting (Robson, 2000; Kumar, 2005).

2. 3. The Global Context of Educating a Woman

Zambia’s position in relation to the education of women in line with its involvement in world conferences is significant to this study because the agenda of ensuring that women are given the opportunity of the education they need concerns the women under investigation. How Zambia translates the commitment aligned with such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and Education For All (EFA), has implications for this study. This is because the implementation of effective policies the nation makes in relation to the education of women stand to affect the whole nation and much more any effort one can make to improve the education of women in the country.

The education of women is among the chief challenges that most developing countries confront today because it’s “implications go beyond education-specific issues” as noted by Kwesiga (2002, p.5). Education is probably the most powerful route by which a woman can be empowered to take more control of her life and that of her children. Kofi Annan argues that:

Eliminating gender discrimination and empowering women are among the paramount challenges facing the world today. When women are….educated and free to take the opportunities life affords them, children thrive and countries flourish, reaping a double dividend for women and children (UNICEF, 2007,

Such claims stress the importance of educating the female population of the human race and the benefits that the children, the community and the country at large stand to gain. Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir (1877-1927) strongly argued that:

No race or people can rise half-slave, half free. The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (Kwesiga, 2002, p.2, citing Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir, 1877-1927).

The significant contributions that education makes to the social well-being of an individual have long been recognised. For example Adam Smith’s book on the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 and Mary Wollstonecraft in her book on A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792 highlight such concerns (Smith, 1776; Wollstonecraft, 1792). Their main interest in this regard is the education of women which is less than equal to that of their male counterparts making it difficult for them to make valuable contributions in many spheres of life. However, the factors that militate against the education of girls/women are many including; inequality, poverty, parental influence, cultural factors and expensive school requirements. While there is need to critically consider each factor, this research will focus on the salient cultural factors in the particular case of Zambia.

Figure 3 ~ Showing the Millennium Development Goals

illustration not visible in this excerpt

According to United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), of the “121 million children of the world who are out of school 65 million are girls, 56 million are boys,” (UNICEF, 2004, p.7), and Gachukia states that of the “100 million children that drop out of primary school” before completing the first four years, two thirds are girls (Gachukia, 2004, p.4). This sort of statistic has contributed to the formulation of the MDG. During the United Nation (UN) Summit in September 2000, 192 countries adopted 8 international development goals to be achieved by 2015. The MDGs aim to encourage development by improving social and economic conditions in the world's poorest countries. Drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium declarations, heads of state and governments of 147 nations signed up to a commitment to these goals. See figure 3 above of the MDGs.

The year 2005 was deemed as an important milestone towards the 2015 target. Of particular interest to this study are MDG 2; (Achieve universal primary education) and 3; (Promote gender equality and empower women) which were identified together as the most crucial, urgent and first step towards achieving the 2015 target. The two were targeted for achievement by 2005, 10 years earlier than the rest of the goals (UNICEF, 2003; MOE, 2004; and UNICEF, 2006). Zambia appended its signature in commitment to this challenge. Current statistics show substantial evidence of progress made towards the enrolment of girls in some Zambian schools, a situation the country is proud to display because it presents encouraging evidence of the possibility of achieving the MDGs by 2015. The question to ask is “will Zambia achieve the stated MDGs”?

This is not the only commitment that Zambia has attempted to align itself with. History records the country’s attendance, participation and commitment to the following World Conferences: The World Conference on EFA in Jomtien, Thailand, March 1990, where the year 2000 was set for countries to achieve universal primary education and to massively reduce illiteracy before the end of the decade. A number of countries such as, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia did not achieve the goal. Hence, at the World Education Forum (WEF), Dakar, Senegal, April, in the year 2000, among other countries, Zambia re-committed itself to achieving girls’ full and equal access to education and achievement of quality basic education by the year 2015 (FAWE, 2004).

The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (FWCW) in 1995 was yet another world conference that Zambia attended with the aim of encouraging female education. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) which was developed at the FWCW aimed at removing all obstacles militating against women’s equal participation in all spheres of life; that is economic, social, cultural and political (NGOCC, 2006). All such world conferences stand as evidence of the perceived need to improve the education of women and remove all obstacles hindering their progress.

Zambia should be commended for its commitment to these educational ideals. However, implementation still falls short of stated commitments. Glaring gaps and obstacles still prevail that prevent gender equality in education from becoming a reality. For example, Zambia’s Strategic Plan 2007–2010 identified the fact that a number of schools in rural areas are still in a deplorable condition lacking the very basic teaching and learning materials. The dropout rates in basic schools in the country are still high. They also indicate continued gender inequality: for example in Eastern Province, home to the tribe under investigation, a dropout rate of 3.56% of girls against 2.46% boys is enough evidence to demonstrate gender inequality in education (MOE, 2005; MOE, 2007).

Additionally, at the World Education Forum in Dakar in April 2000 Zambia joined the commitment to eliminate gender disparities in enrolment in primary and secondary education by 2005 but failed to achieve this (NGOCC, 2006). The concern here is how genuinely committed is Zambia to the stated commitments? The commitment of Zambia to the international calls for the education of women should be evident in the nation.

The improvement in female enrolment into primary school, progression to further education, involvement in decision making positions could stand as proof of the achievement of the stated commitments. This position affects the women in this study because they are a part of the citizens of Zambia who are represented in these conferences. This can be noted in the claims of Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Committee (NGOCC), which claims that Zambia has failed to convert any “international and regional instruments on gender into law” (NGOCC, 2005, p. 53). There seems to be a lack of commitment in practice by the government to improve the status of women and girls. Additionally, NGOCC indicates that issues of gender equality and the education of girls seem to be items “governments put on paper for the sake of pronouncements” while they fail to undertake concrete action in order to improve the identified situation (NGOCC, 2005, pp.53-54). There has been 25% improvement on budget allocation to the educational sector (McPherson, 2004; Phiri, 2007). However, NGOCC (2005; 2006) argue that national budgets have continued to be gender-blind.

The implications of such a budget may explain the level of commitment the government has on gender issues and how it could affect the women in this study. If a budget of a nation fails to align itself with the commitments made, it is unlikely to be able to meet those commitments. Implementation of important policies will be slowed down and this could have negative and irreversible repercussions that may be grave and costly to national development and the population concerned (NGOCC, 2006). Implementation of effective polices to achieve the commitments could have implications on the education system of Zambia and hence the Ministry of Education has a responsibility to ensure that the instruments and legislations are effective.

While Durrant and Sathar (2000) in their research on Greater Investment in Children through Women’s Empowerment conducted in Pakistan agree that “maternal education is a valuable asset to the education of girls,” they argue that it should not be the only measure used as a proxy for women’s status (Durrant and Sathar, 2000, p.8). The multidimensional status of women raises the questions of whether education is sufficient as a unit of measure. While this may be true, the association of maternal education with high probability of children’s education should not be ignored. The cultural status of women may be a strong point of consideration.

Jump (1994), citing Mary Wollstonecraft[16], insists education would enable a woman to contribute in fundamental ways to her children’s physical and mental well-being from the very beginning of life. Swain (2005) argues that education is a means through which critical competencies, skills and dispositions can be developed. He further states that:

Education broadens and develops assurance and self-determination that enables a person to interact and compete with others. It brings discovery of other cultures, lands, languages and peoples, which in turn promotes understanding of different viewpoints and facilitates coordination (Swain, 2005, p.1).

Such education should not target the male population alone but should be inclusive of the women. Todaro and Smith (2003) equally point out that female education is not a matter of equity; it is an asset and is economically desirable to the family, the community and the whole country. Todaro and Smith argue that the continued educational discrimination against women reinforces social inequality.

A number of studies such as Chitsike (1995), Muranga, (1997), Todaro and Smith, (2003), Kwesiga, (2004), and FAWE, (2006) have indicated that the benefits of educating a woman have a spill over effect onto her family, community and the nation. The World Bank has expressed wretchedness at the lack of progress in terms of improving education despite nations knowing its relevance by stating that: “...despite repeated rhetorical commitments to universal enrolment even the modest goal of universal primary school completion has not been realised” (World Bank, 2003, p111-112). If studies such as Muranga (1997), Kelly et al (1999) , UNICEF (2003), WB, (2003), WB, (2005), and FAWE, (2006) , have revealed the fact that educating and empowering women are effective tools for development, why do nations seem disinclined to implement legislation that would ensure this?

2. 4. Conclusion

The role of education system should be to conserve and teach what is best of the Zambian tradition and do away with whatever has become insignificant. A number of issues have been raised in the statement of the problem, justifying the reason for research. The Tumbuka, the focus of the study, have an interesting history that has had a remarkable impact on their way of life making them an interesting tribe for this study. The Ngoni colonisation of the Tumbuka tribe resulted in a change of some of their cultural beliefs: their newly assumed status of patrilinity meant that authority was wholly invested in the men. The position the woman holds is that of a receptacle through which new members are added to the group: the tribe’s assumed patrilinity came with the lobola system. The married woman is a wife and by virtue of the paid lobola in form of cattle, the man has full rights and ownership of her and the offspring.

The Tumbuka’s polygamous practices tend to result in huge families and the large number of children reduces the chance of educating them all. The man who is the breadwinner fails to provide all the necessary school requirements of the children, and precipitated by the cultural beliefs, the girls tend to be affected more: the children from the man are of most importance as they are added to the family.

The statistics given show the disparities that exist between the boy and the girl in education, particularly in rural areas. Though, there has been remarkable improvement on enrolment, there is still glaring gaps in the retention rates of the female students. This calls for analysis to ascertain the factors that could be militating against girls’ education. While a number of the factors raised interact and reinforce each other, there is a need to assess the cultural traditional factor. Its potential to negate, and/or destroy the process of education should not be underestimated. The rural area should not be side-lined in any way, because most of Zambia’s population lives there. Improving the infrastructure in the areas can stimulate production and attract businesses that would further offer employment opportunities to school leavers.


3. 0. Introduction

This study has set out to investigate how the effects of cultural traditions ingrained in women have affected their inclusion and level of participation in education. Included in the previous chapter was a discussion of the statement of the problem underscoring the purpose of this book. Since the underlying barriers militating against the education of women relate to the focus of most feminist theories, this research will use different types of feminist theories. This is done with full knowledge that in the majority of cases these theories are cast in the western moulds for the Western context and may not be consistent with the African needs. With that in view, I have included a discussion on the relationships between African feminisms and Western feminisms and will focus on the criticisms of the Western feminists theories made by African feminists.

The chapter is structured as follows: first I will briefly discuss the concept of “feminism” and the adjective “feminist” in relation to the current research. Given that the data is being collected from Africa, I will then consider the thought processes of the African Women; their theoretical thought in relation to Western feminist theories and their applicability to the African realities will be given. The definition and brief discussion of the theory will be done, in order to provide an understanding to the use of multiple theories used in this study. A number of feminist theories with particular relevance to the theories of gender inequalities will be considered as well as their suitability to the problem under investigation will be pointed out. These include liberal feminism, radical feminism, and Marxist-socialist feminism.

Human Capital Theory (HCT) is of interest to the current study as it attempts to explain why less attention is paid to the education of girls (Kwesiga, 2002; Todaro and Smith, 2003). The education of girls/women is crucial to this research, therefore, understanding the reasons or factors that militate against their education are of importance. A brief discussion of women’s movements is given with a view to showing their effort in attenuating the barriers to women’s access to education and the many other negative aspects affecting women.

3. 1. The Concept of Feminism

The term ‘feminism’ assumes the politics of equal rights, which stand for the belief in sexual equality and a determination to eliminate male domination and to bring about change (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). Walter simply states that “feminism is about finding equality between men and women in all areas of society” (Walter, 2000, p.1). On the contrary, Best (2003) argues that feminism is not just about equal rights but about one seeking to raise “consciousness about a diverse range of issues in relation to identity and hierarchy” (Best, 2003, p.147). The term ‘feminism’ could simply denote a political stance of someone committed to changing the social position of women which would include raising consciousness about different issues that concern the standpoint of women in all spheres of life.

Feminism is an internationally recognized movement whose political aims have been championed worldwide: in the United Nations Decade (UND) for Women 1985-95, at the International Nairobi conference with a representation of 151 UN countries, and in many more instances (Humm, 1992; Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). The writings of Mary Wollstonecraft in her books entitled Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, 1797, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792,” and those of John Stuart Mill entitled “On The Subjection of Women, 1869,” are believed to have formed a bedrock of early feminist pursuit for equality (Hughes, 2003) although at that time such a term would not have been used (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). However, the early arguments in relation to the plight of women still stand and hence the connection with the modern feminists. Further still, Oyewumi states that the term ‘feminist’ can be used as an adjective to describe a “range of behaviours indicating female agency and self-determination” (Oyewumi, 2003, p.1).

Generally speaking, feminism is often depicted in the popular press as a source of unacceptable behaviour conjuring up lively acrimonious debate and evoking deceptive images of angry insensitive women demanding the abandonment of the family or the desertion of husbands. However, over the years, feminists have pursued credible goals that have seen the establishment of mechanisms that still serve to stop the perpetuation of the subordination of women, have exposed the patriarchal structure with its hierarchy of values, and have seen the enacting of laws and policies such as gender equality, equal opportunities and equal pay for equal work (Acker, 1994; Beasley, 1999; Marysia, 2000; and Kwesiga, 2002). In this study, feminism will be used as a term to denote the liberation of women from any form of oppression that hinders them from realising their potential as individuals.

The many forms of feminism are often categorized according to their ideological source as a result there are different strands of feminism with different focuses. These different theoretical frameworks can adopt contradictory positions that could be seen as a weakness in feminism as a whole. Nonetheless, that should not outweigh the irrefutable strengths of feminism and its egalitarian pursuit. It has played a major role in questioning canonical knowledge and standards in society (Acker, 1994; Weiner, 1997; Beasley, 1999; and Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004).

3. 2. Western Feminisms vs. African Feminisms

There seems to be an ideological war between the Western feminists and African feminists. Arnfred cited Amina Mama’s introductory speech at a national workshop in Nigeria where basic concepts such as ‘woman,’ ‘gender,’ and ‘feminism’ were being discussed:

The experience of African women across the region indicates that we cannot just passively import terms and concepts that have been developed elsewhere, under different social and political conditions. [...] The task we face as African intellectuals is that of developing our own applications of given theories, and more radically, of taking our own realities as the starting point for articulating perspectives, or even entirely new theories that emanate organically from our particular conditions and concerns (Mama, 1997, pp. 4-5 cited in Arnfred, 2002, p.10).

The argument of Mama above cannot go without a comment. Total dependence on the West as a source of knowledge and invention should not be tolerated anymore. It is time for the so called African intellectuals to re-focus on ourselves as Africans and develop theories in context with our conditions and concerns instead of re-inventing the wheel. Oyewumi further insists that interpreting African realities out of context results in “distortions, obfuscations in language and often a total lack of comprehension” (Oyewumi, 2002, p.5). This is because such interpretations are not the reality of the social categories and institutions in African societies and hence may interpret African realities out of context. This has further been necessitated by the supposed tendency of the West to represent itself as the source of knowledge and to impose concepts and theories coined in their own context on the African realities.

Commenting on the same subject, Okome argues that the mainstream feminist writings on African women are inaccurate, suggesting that the “works tend to portray the African woman as confused, powerless and unable to determine for themselves both the changes needed in their lives and the means to construct these changes” (Okome, 1999, p.3). Further still Kuma (2000) adds that African women are portrayed as “ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, domestic and family oriented” (Kuma, 2000, p.5). Such patronising and exploitative conceptions of the African situation have resulted in most African feminists rising up with such a passion and impetus to challenge Western feminists. Okome (1999) claims that the Western feminists portray themselves as “superiors, who hand down valuable knowledge, define the relevant issues for African women, and how these issues ought to be promoted and pursued” (Okome, 1999. p.3). Oyewumi (2002) agreeing with Okome’s argument on western superiority complex, pointed out that “Europe is represented as the source of knowledge and Europeans as knowers.” Okome (1999), Oyewumi (2002), and Arnfred (2002) have been able to point the following out: The 17th to 18th century invaders who perceived Africans as uncivilised and the enlightened Westerners attempting to reform the ‘backward’ Africans; and the colonialist domination of the African nations in an effort to interpret its indigenous cultures imposed their conception of human civilisation which was exclusively Western. The arguments that have been put across by the African feminists cannot be ignored; they have ontological and epistemological value because Africa should not be considered as an inferior and unintelligible continent incapable of determining what is best for themselves. However, could our cultural practices that look down on women be the source of some of such assumptions?

Notable African feminists such as Kuma (2000) in West Africa Review, the work of Okome (1999) on Listening to Africa, Misunderstanding and Misinterpreting Africa and Oyewumi’s (2002) work entitled Conceptualising Gender: The Eurocentric foundations of Feminist Concepts and the Challenge of African Epistemologies are part of the work that has been written about African feminisms and the African woman in critique of what has been presented about the African situation through the eyes and realities of Western feminists.

The call made by Arnfred (1999) above for the African feminists to coin their own theories that will explain the African realities is one good suggestion that should be considered. However, the African continent as noted by Bakare-Yusuf (2003) is a “diverse continent, with thousands of cultural traditions and linguistic groupings that dwarf all the different European cultural traditions and languages combined” (Bakare-Yusuf, 2003, p.8). Taiwo (2003) argues that the theories advanced by the Western feminists are poverty-stricken in the sense that they are incorrect or inadequate, meaning ‘not good enough’ and inappropriate for Africa’s rich diverse societies. Okome (1999) and Taiwo (2003) equally note that Africa’s bewildering diversity evident in its history, its culture and its people is a case in point that makes universalisation problematic. With such an observation, it will equally be difficult for the African feminists to generalise the realities of one particular culture with the rest of the continent.

For example, at the centre of this feminist ideological war are concepts such as patriarchy, patrilineality, family, mother, gender, and woman. Such concepts might not imply the same thing in all societies hence applying them universally may raise problems. Oyewumi rejects what she calls the “universalization of gender” and argues that Western feminists use gender as “the explanatory model to account for women’s subordination and oppression worldwide” (Oyewumi 2002, p.2). Arnfred (2002) commenting on Oyewumi’s (2002) explanation of gender as the key organising principle of the family in the West and alien in African societies, notes that man and woman are essentialised, stating that “these gender identities in western cultures attach all social arrangements” (Arnfred, 2002, p.10). Oyewumi (2002) gives the example of her own tribe Yoruba to justify her claims, which she calls non-gendered. This issue will be discussed further below. For Oyewumi (2002), the nuclear family remains the source of hierarchy and oppression, a view shared by the radical feminists. However, she claims that the nuclear family system is not universal. Such a position is debatable because while it could be true that the family can be the source of hierarchy and oppression, the nuclear family unit is not alien to African societies, probably to some Nigerian tribes. There may be the issue of different contexts but there are also common themes that should be put into consideration.

While I agree and appreciate the position that my fellow African feminists have taken in relation to the Western feminists, my argument stands, could there be a number of underlying problems from which such arguments stem from? Has Africa miss-represented itself through its diverse culture that it displays with pride of its uniqueness? On the contrary, Buiten (2009) in her thesis on Gender Transformation argued that “the backlash has invoked the idea that African feminists have betrayed, violated or contaminated ‘culture’” (Buiten, 2009, p.44). Buiten argues that “contemporarily myths scripts and discourses of ‘culture’ in Africa, built around fictions of undiluted African culture” is responsible for informing the rest of the world about the centrality of masculinity in African societies, that “support patriarchal goals and interests” (Buiten, 2009, p.44-45). Buiten states that “anti-feminist backlashes in Africa are a manifestation of mounting anxieties surrounding the preservation of identities forged and strengthened as a part of the anti-colonial project” (Buiten 2009, p.36). Kwesiga (2002) equally notes that patriarchy in Africa existed prior to colonialism and hence cannot be blamed entirely on colonialism or capitalism. The concern of the African feminists about universalisation of theories and concepts that inaccurately represent the African context is a point worthy noting. African feminists are not restricted to formulating their own theories that best inform the African situation.

This research recognizes with respect (though not condoning the claimed debasing tendencies of Western feminists) the effort that feminist theories have made in an attempt to explain the causes and remedies for the different western ways in which women are treated in society. These theories have been valuable avenues and tools that have been used to inform policy makers and governments of the issues surrounding women, which have been impacting adversely on their lives. African women could learn from these theories. Abena Busia (1990) while acknowledging the variances that exist among the African and Western women suggests that complete dissociation from feminism could be counterproductive, a position that I agree with because, theory should be wisely and critically considered before application. This study is appreciative of and takes into consideration the arguments of the African feminists. However, while some African realities may have been misrepresented by the Western theories resulting in distorted conclusions, this should not be the basis for refusal to recognize the achievements of these theories all together. Such an attitude could easily result in a total rejection of even the very most crucial issues that feminism aims to tackle.

Bakare-Yusuf argued that an African woman shares “certain experiences with women across the world,” such as infertility, the menopause and having the potential to give birth (Bakare-Yusuf, 2003, p.8). Further still, Manuh (2007) expostulates that African scholars should desist from criticising theory on grounds of it being western but should assess the extent of its misrepresentation of the African realities and how this obscures analysis. A point to note here is raised by Pilcher and Whelehan, who firmly state that “we do not need to share common oppression to fight equality to end oppression” (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004, p.75).

3. 3. Choice of Theory

The concept of ‘theory’ could mean different things to different people as noted by Robson (2002). Theory could simply be defined as a set of interconnected explanatory occurrences that presents a methodical contemplation of the problem. Kerlinger cited by Cohen et al similarly defines theory as:

A set of interrelated concepts, definitions and propositions that presents a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables with the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena (Kerlinger, 1970 cited by Cohen et al., 2000, p.11).

The body of knowledge, which encompasses interrelated concepts, definitions and the propositions, enables one to explain the phenomena being investigated. Easton citing Jackie Stacey’s definition of feminist theories explains this better by stating that theories:

Attempt to generally suggest a body of knowledge, which offers critical explanations of women’s subordination. By ‘critical’ I mean that which undermines, exposes or challenges, women’s subordination (Stacey, 1993 cited by Easton, 1996, p.5).

This definition is supported by Finch (1996) who equally considers feminist theories as a body of theories that offers a critical rationalisation of the state of women. While feminist theories attempt to undermine and expose or challenge women’s subordination, theory should be open to critique and further development. The critical process should expose its flaws, its strengths and allow for advanced development. The framework of interconnected beliefs of the human beings and their values could be expressed propositionally. Hence subjecting them to critical analysis is vital (Pring, 2000).

Further still, the critical process enables one to ascertain whether the theory is applicable to the phenomenon under investigation. This is because in the case of this investigation, most of the theories may be generated outside the African context and may fall under critique from the African feminists as imposing Western theories on African realities (Kabeer, 1994). My decision to use the Western theories is not an intention to misrepresent the realities of the phenomena. The feminist theories chosen will be used to point out the factors that affect female education and explain the consistent lower status of women. Therefore, I have considered critically the theories I have chosen in light of the suggestions of Kourany et al (1992), on whether the theories are able to explain the problem; whether the evidence they provide is sound and complete; and whether they are useful and able to provide concrete strategies for dealing with the concerns of the phenomena under investigation. Further still, Jackson and Jones state that: “theory is of little use if it has no relationship to the activities of life as it is lived” (Jackson and Jones 1998, p.2). It is therefore, imperative upon every researcher to critically analyse a/the theory in order to determine its relevance to the phenomena under investigation, irrespective of whether such a theory were coined an African or Western mould. Applicability and relevance to the situation should be of paramount consideration and a determining factor.

This research will use multiple theories in investigating the identified problem. This stand is recommended by Griffiths:

The basic idea is that all problems cannot be studied fruitfully using a single theory. Some problems are large and complex and no single theory is capable of encompassing them, while others, although seemingly simple and straight forward, can be better understood through the use of multiple theories. Particular theories are appropriate to certain problems, but not others (Griffiths, 1997, p.72).

The following major frameworks of feminist theory will be used in this study in order to offer critical explanations and understanding of issues preventing women from accessing educational opportunities.

I. Theories Of Gender Inequalities Commonly Referred To As Feminist Theories

Liberal feminism

Radical feminism

Marxist-Socialist feminism

(Acker, 1994; Kwesiga, 2002; and Best, 2003).

II. Human Capital Theory (HCT)

Human Capital Theory will be used to explain the underlying belief that investment in the education gives better returns (Schultz, 1993; Kwesiga, 2002).

3. 4. Theories of Gender Inequalities

I. The Impact of Gender

This section starts by explaining some concepts such as sex, gender, identity and woman, which are at the centre of feminist discourses and can be problematic. The concept ‘gender’ needs to be clearly understood in view of the different theorists and their position. Kwesiga, (2002) and others including Oyewumi, (2002), contest that gender is a social construction. Kwesiga further states that “‘gender’ has come to refer to the culturally and socially shaped cluster of expectations, attributes, and behaviours assigned to each one of us by the society into which we are born” (Kwesiga, 2002, p.20). Such an understanding is echoed by Andersen and Taylor (2006). From Kwesiga’s explanation, this social and cultural construction has potential to be changed. On the other hand, there is the term ‘sex’ which is problematic because of its many meanings. Andersen and Taylor state that ‘sex refers to the biological identity male or female” (Andersen and Taylor, 2006, p.302). Kwesiga simply states that sex is “what is biological, inborn and natural and cannot be changed” (Kwesiga, 2002, p.20). While Oakley (1981) argues that gender is a construction of society she states that:

gender performs an invaluable function in analysing how women and men are made rather than born; these differences cannot be understood in terms of sex and sexuality as attributes of the natural body [].The distinction between sex and gender does not call into question how society constructs the natural body itself. Ultimately, sex is no more natural than gender... (Oakley, 1981, p. 81).

Therefore, the dividing line between these two terms is thin and the similarity and difference can only be presented in context of the investigation. Arguing on the difference between sex and gender, Kwesiga (2002) insists that the difference between these two terms as natural or social need to be viewed in context to avoid the error of applying the meaning on societies that may have different social structures. Hughes commenting on the same concern of whether gender is social and sex is natural states that:

The view that gender is performative sought to show that what we take to be internal essence of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts, posited through the gendered stylization of the body. In this way it showed that what we take to be an ‘internal’ feature of ourselves is one that we anticipate and produce through certain bodily acts (Hughes, 2002, p.69).

Hughes’s argument seems to suggest the thin distinction that may exist between gender and sex. Krais clearly states that gender:

Is the social construction of masculinity and femininity that shapes the body, defines how the body is perceived, forms the body’s habits and possibilities for expression and thus determines the individual’s identity-via the body-as masculine or feminine? (Krais, 2006, p.121).

This study will refer to gender as a social construction while sex as a biological division into female and male. This is with the view that the sex of an individual is extremely important in shaping the gender-differentiated behaviour. I am however, concerned with what the cultural context makes of the biological body, of which inequality is one. This is because in Zambia, despite a society being matrilineal or patrilineal, the sex of a child is very important. Immediately a child is born, all eyes go between the legs to check the sex. This could be true of all cultures but the implications could be different.

In the Tumbuka tradition, at the birth of a child, the traditional mid-wives would ululate once to mean a boy or twice to mean a girl and right away word goes to the father announcing nimwanalume ! (It is a boy!) Or nimwanakazi ! (It is a girl!). If the bearer of the message announces that ‘ balinamwana’ ! (You have a baby!), the father will ask, “mwanawachi?” (What sex is the baby?). Equally the mother is shown the sex as proof of the sex of the baby, which will automatically determine the socio-cultural mould to within which the newly born will be placed. This could be true of all the tribes in Zambia. This information is supported by Young (1931), and Chondoka and Bota, (2007). Williams and Stein (2002) note that human beings are born female or male because the biological category that defines one’s status is attached to the body from birth. Whether one wishes to remain neuter, it would not matter much because what defines the state comes along with the birth.

Oyewumi states that Western feminists have used “gender” as an explanation of some occurrences such as subordination and oppression of women worldwide by presupposing that “woman” and her subordination are universal (Oyewumi 2002, p.2). Oyewumi further claims that the west present “gender categories as inherent in nature (of bodies) and operate on a dichotomous, binarily opposed male/female, man/woman duality in which the male is assumed to be superior” (Oyewumi 2002, p.5). She argues that this is alien to African cultures, a point that can be debatable because her assertions cannot be applicable to all African cultures. African feminists such as Oyewumi, (2002), Nzegwu, (2004) and Bakare-Yusuf (2003) have rejected universalising of gender and have argued and tried to prove that some African cultures are non-gendered. Oyewumi in particular has argued this through her study of the Yoruba society of south-western Nigeria which she claims is a non-gendered society (Oyewumi, 2002). Drawing from her study of this tribe, she presents how the family is organised claiming that it is non-gendered because:

Kingship roles and categories are not gender-differentiated. Significantly then, power centres within the family are diffused and are not gender-specific. Because the fundamental organising principle within the family is seniority based on relative age, and not gender, kinship categories encode seniority not gender (Oyewumi, 2002, p.4).

Generally speaking, in Zambian societies, much more within the Tumbuka tribe, the position a man holds can automatically assume superiority over the woman and much emphasis on the importance of male authority can be observed in the social norms be it a matrilineal or patrilineal society (Nyirenda, 2008).

Pilcher and Whelehan claim that such a mind-set is “imbued in our culture with the mythology of supremacy, of being the human ‘norm’” (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004, p.58) . This view is further classified as ‘masculinity’ and hence represents the degree to which society reinforces the traditional masculine role model of male attainment, control and supremacy and may reflect the division of roles between genders (Hofstede, 2001). Such a theory explains the situation in Zambian societies and much more the community under investigation where the model man is held in high esteem. This may suggest a high level of gender discrimination. While there is a biological difference between men and women, Torres et al (1999) argue that the biological difference between a man and woman should not automatically assume men as being more superior and /or potent than women.

Jackson and Jones emphasise that one theory may not explain the “world for all women at all times, in all places” (Jackson and Jones, 1998, p.9). While in the case of the Yoruba society some words used are neutral, that may not make the society non-gendered all together. It would be wrong to make a sweeping generalisation that gender categories are alien to African cultures on grounds of one or two tribes in West Africa. Therefore, it is difficult to apply the situation of the Yoruba society and other examples advanced by Oyewumi (2002) to the Zambian situation specifically the Tumbuka society.

The term ‘sexuality,’ like ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ has a multiplicity of definitions. Williams and Stein (2002) note that the sexuality and gender are related but they are not the same. Both terms assume a socially constructed position. William and Stein state that “sexuality is socially constructed through the sex/gender system on both the personal level of individual consciousness and interpersonal relationships and the social structural level of social institutions” (Williams and Stein, 2002, p.194). Bruess and Greenberg view sexuality as an “integral part of everyone’s personality” which includes the “cultural, psychological, ethical, and biological dimensions” (Bruess and Greenberg, 2009, p.4).

The definition given by Bruess and Greenberg establishes ‘sexuality’ as a broadly encompassing term. It describes the aspect of being and sexual feelings. All the aspects included in the definition impact upon sexuality producing both behaviour and desire. Bruess and Greenberg (2009) indicate that sexuality can be influenced by cultural and moral concerns. For example, among the Tumbuka and probably many other tribes in Zambia, sexual roles are emphasised during socialisation (sexualisation) and initiation rites. The individuals’ sexual characteristics such as elongation of labia minora,[17] and exotic dances are geared towards constructing an individual’s sexuality. Artchison (2003) has argued that according to feminists, sexuality and gender are an outcome of sexual roles. Adherence to the traditional gender roles could compel the women to accept and justify any inequality and their low status as normal.

Equality is another term that is synonymous with feminists especially the liberal whose agenda seeks to ensure equality for women in all spheres of life. The concept of ‘equality’ could be defined as a condition of being the same especially in terms of social status or legal/political rights (Hughes, 2002). Therefore, one would need to specify the particular respect in which women would have to be treated as being an equal to man: in nature or social treatment. In the case of this study, it is in both, although the aspect of treatment will have to be considered because equal treatment can be contested. Equal treatment may not denote identical or same treatment because same treatment may not always produce the same results. There could be other shortcomings that may impede on input and might be reason enough for producing different outcomes.

For example, in Zambia, while equal access to education seems to have received considerable attention as a significant factor in improving the education of girls, the drop out and completion rates show that equality for the offered education has not been achieved (MOE, 2005). The question would be, were the girls treated differently after accessing education? Or, are there other factors, external and internal that impact on the availed opportunity? However, as argued by Hughes, it is not about “equal ‘amounts’ of treatment” because equal treatment may not always produce equal results (Hughes, 2002, p.37). Hughes states that “equality in opportunities is primarily concerned with enabling all individuals in society to have equal access to the same life chances such as education” (Hughes, 2002, p.38). Now, ‘sameness’ is an issue that is arguable. Men and women may share a common humanity but they are biologically different in nature and thus may be treated differently on the same grounds (Kabeer, 1994; Hughes, 2002; and Frawley, 2005). Wollstonecraft (1995) has argued to this effect that the sexual difference of a woman and her reproductive capacities should not automatically relegate her to an inferior status or a lesser form of existence.

Nzegwu claims “women and men are equivalent, namely equal, in terms of what they do in the maintenance and survival of the community” (Nzegwu, 2001, p.19). While in principle the maintenance and survival of the community seems to be the responsibility of both men and women as observed by Nzegwu above, in practice women may be overburdened with the laborious work and side-lined in the important aspects like the decision making processes.

Another topic of contention is the identity of women. The term ‘woman’ is considered not stable in its array of meanings but slippery and culturally and historically diverse, a thought shared by the African women (Oyewumi, 2003; Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). The multiple identities of a woman have long been that of wife, mother, and housekeeper. While for some women, such forms of identity may not be welcomed, in Africa, much more in Zambia (despite the negative connotation they may come with), such identities may be proudly accepted, well sought after and appreciated because they command some sort of respect and recognition in the society. One is proud to be identified as a woman and a mother (Oyewumi, 2004). She argues that “motherhood is not a reification of biology or biological motherhood but recognition that mothers in raising their children create and sustain the future” (Oyewumi, 2004, p.2).

Taylor (2006) argues that marriage is an important part of gender relations and represents an important aspect of womanhood. Ollenburger and Moore (1998) have argued that feminists view motherhood as a thorny issue because women are socialised to value motherhood. They argue that motherhood oppresses women. Jump (1994), states that if motherhood is the lot of most women, then all the more reason why comprehensive education should be given to them, to enable them contribute in fundamental ways to their children’s physical and mental well-being from their very onset of life. Mary Wollstonecraft, over 200 years ago, challenged the men on the significance of educating the female population and not to neglect their education (Stokes, 2003). Neglect assumes that the subject is aware of the concern or problem but deliberately decides not to do anything about it.

Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sees nothing wrong with women serving because service, she claims, demonstrates an ideal means of giving oneself to the community in order to better the lot of all. (Maathai cited by Oyewumi, 2003). Such a point is appreciated as long as women do not end up burdened with service in the name of giving themselves to the community at their own expense. If “motherhood by definition is visionary” as claimed by Oyewumi, (2004, p.2), then she is better off educated in order to realise this potential. Wollstonecraft argued that women should be educated because they are significant to the nation and they “educate its children” (Wollstonecraft, 2008, p.vii).

II. Liberal Feminism

It has been argued that this strand of feminism has been the most accepted of all feminisms as noted by Weiner (1997) because its aims are more moderate and its views do not pose so much of a challenge to the existing values. Commenting on the same, Pilcher and Whelehan state:

The liberal position is broadly held to be the dominant, ‘common-sense’ stance on feminism, applicable to the majority of women who identify as ‘feminist’ in some way, but don’t want to overturn the status quo in order to achieve better social conditions for women (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004, p.49).

This approach seeks to achieve a state of equality through gradual democratic reforms as opposed to other strands of feminisms such as the radical feminists who tend to want to tackle patriarchy from the root. Liberal feminists do not see the need for a revolutionary change say in an economic, social or political sphere. Although the approach sees gender inequality as a factor that affects both genders however it endeavours to explain the position of women in society in terms of unequal rights or barriers to women’s participation in the public sphere. It also asserts that women should have the freedom to determine their roles in the political and educational arena. The main aim of liberal feminism is the creation of equal opportunities in the public sphere beyond the family and household, particularly in education on the premise of preventing discrimination (Acker, 1994; Weiner, 1997; Beasley, 1999; and Marysia, 2000).

It is upon these factors that this study has opted to use liberal feminism to explain the situation of the Tumbuka women; the inequality of women and the need to create equal opportunities in all spheres of life and the need to offer women autonomy and freedom to determine their roles in the educational arena. While both men and women can suffer the consequences of inequality, the focus of this study is women who should not be side-lined because of their sex or gender. Kabeer contests that women and men share the “fundamental human capacity for reason” and therefore should be given the same opportunity to exercise their rationality and to be availed equal education opportunities (Kabeer 1994, p.38).

Wollstonecraft, though an old publication, argued that women should be “rational and independent beings whose sense of worthiness came..…from their inner perception of their self-control” (Wollstonecraft, 1995, p.xxvi). Wollstonecraft further argued that education for women should be focused on cultivating their understanding and development of their reasoning abilities. This would empower the women, enable them to have self-control and have the right to make choices. She disputed Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s assertions of women’s education when he claimed that:

The education of women should always be relative to men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, and take care of us when grown up, to advice us, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable; these are the duties of women at all times, and what they should be taught in their infancy (Rousseau, 1955; 328 in Marysia, 2000, p.6).

Such thoughts may not be alien to the Zambian situation nor probably to other countries despite having been written more than 200 years ago. This may demonstrate the attitude of most men who may see women as mere servants required to make their living comfortable. Men and women may be different by nature, in mind and body, but this should not be taken to mean that women are only to be recognised as acquiescent and suited to a home life, even after receiving an education (Moore, 1999). Access to education is a fundamental right that liberal feminists have pursued over the centuries.

As earlier noted in chapter 1, culture of a society is the way of life of its members. The members are able to learn their culture through a process called ‘socialisation’. Haralambos states that “without socialisation, an individual would bear little resemblance to any human being defined as normal by the standards of his society" (Haralambos and Heald, 1980, p.5). The outcome of socialisation may differ from society to society. Liberal feminists, view socialisation as an on-going interaction process in society that helps define one’s gender. Further still, liberal feminists argue that the socialisation of children into gender roles tend to produce rigid and inflexible expectations that can lead to tendencies of discrimination.

Akin to socialisation is Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus,’ which is considered as a product “of conditioning that one acquires through implicit or explicit learning, which when deposited in an individual generates thoughts and beliefs that shape ones practice” (Kariuki, 2005, p.2). Bourdieu argues that “‘habitus’ is the practical operator, the principle that generates… practice” (Bourdieu, 1980, p.53). Pandey has argued that “norms, values and roles are culturally determined and socially transmitted” and that gender roles are a “product of culture rather than biology” (Pandey, 1989, p.106). Pandey argues that the sexual division of labour is supported by the belief and value system that justify gender roles as normal, natural right and proper (Pandey, 1989).

It is important to note that African societies have their own inequalities and stratifications which could be different from those of western societies, for the simple reason that those societies are different and are a ‘design for living’ of the people within them (Bakare-Yusuf, 2003). While such a position could be true, liberal feminism will be used in this study.

Akin to the social-learning theory, socialization enables a child to attain knowledge and mental baggage of gender behaviour (Kwesiga, 2002; Best, 2003). Socialization could be deliberate; through giving instructions about expected roles or unintentional; through observation, in events or situations. This could be through observing parents, teachers and other children and through the use of language to stress what is observed or what is to be learnt (Kwesiga, 2002; Best, 2003). The subject of socialisation will be discussed in detail in the next chapter.

Liberal feminism attempts to alter socialization practices in order to end discrimination tendencies and attitudes through the introduction of legislations in the in the existing social set up (Best, 2003; Kabeer, 1994). However, other strands of feminism such as the radical feminists, heavily criticise such a stance because working for an attainable social change with the existing social set up may take a long time to yield the urgently sought for change (Kourany et al., 1992). Plumwood calls such an attempt ‘fitting women into masculine patterns of life’ (Plumwood, 1993). Such an argument could be valid bearing in mind the patriarchal power that seems to be embedded in institutions and the systematic subordination of women by men (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). Bryson (1999) claims that liberal feminists are unable to see that “‘private’ areas of life as the family may be the site of sexual politics and that domestic violence..are not simply unfortunate personal experiences that are related to the power structures of society” but could be the real root cause of women’s oppression (Bryson, 1999, p.217). Commenting on the change, Chitsike argues that attitudes ingrained for a long period may take time to correct (Chitsike, 1995). It may be important therefore, to infiltrate into the system and work from within it to bring about change as opposed to a radical change.

III. Radical Feminism

Marysia introduces radical feminists as “the ones the media love to hate” (Marysia, 2000, p.11). This could be because of their extremist views vis-a-vis the drastic/revolutionary change in an economic, political and cultural life. For the radical feminist, society is viewed as patriarchal with men as the ruling class while the women are the dominated subjects. All forms of domination are rooted in patriarchy. These feminists are disenchanted with male domination in all institutions and accept the theoretical frameworks and political practice of liberalism. They strongly deny that the liberation of women could come about through assimilating women into male dominated and controlled arenas. They instead call for the dismantling of the patriarchal system, which, as far as they are concerned, is the fundamental barrier to the advancement of women (Marysia, 2000; Best, 2003; and Andersen and Taylor, 2006).

Radical feminists see the family as the key institution that oppresses women. Bryson (1999) further notes that it is within the family that patriarchy is embedded. Bryson observes that family is a social institution within which, “oppressive gender identities and modes of behaviour are learned (Bryson, 1999, p.219). This brings in the subject of socialisation. It is within the family that the patriarchal power of men is maintained and probably reinforced. Radical feminists view the term ‘patriarchy’ as denoting the control that men have over women (Pilcher and Whelehan, 2004). Bryson (1999) further argues that patriarchal power is not embodied in the biological males but that it is a social-cultural construction. Bakare-Yusuf defines patriarchy as “the organisation of social life and institutional structures in which men have ultimate control over most aspects of women’s lives and actions” a position she herself does not entirely agree with (Bakare-Yusuf, 2003, p.2). The definition is careful in stating that men have control over most aspects of women’s lives and actions. ‘Most’ may signify the bulk of the women’s lives. The term ‘patriarchy’ in the current research will be used to describe the authority of men over women, which is characterised by their control over most aspects of their lives and actions. The explanation of patriarchal structure shows why women are consistently disadvantaged in comparison to men. This explanation stands as the main reason for the choice of this theory in this study. The theory will be used as a pointer to the pervasiveness of the subordination of women among the Tumbuka. As claimed by Marysia, the concept “captures the depth, pervasiveness and interconnectedness of different aspects of women’s subordination,” and can be developed in such a way as to take account of the different forms of gender inequality over time and ethnic group (Marysia, 2000, p.12).


[1] It’s a general term used to describe all the tribes found in the Eastern Province of Zambia: this includes the Tumbuka tribe.

[2] Lobola is the payment that a man makes to seal the marriage contract. It is the transfer of cattle or money as marriage payment that a man makes to a girl’s/woman’s family. In this study lobola will be used interchangeably with bride wealth to mean the same thing. OMCT states that the number of marriages requiring the payment of lobol a has increased in Zambia to such an extent that even “tribes that never used to, have adopted the custom” (OMCT, 2002, p.13).This has equally pushed the cost up with more parents demanding more money or cows for their daughters.

[3] The prefix ‘chi’ means the language of the Chewa or the Tumbuka

[4] Nkosi is the respective title used to identify Ngoni chiefs. It means King.

[5] In this research, I will use school education to represent academic and modern and to differentiate it from traditional education. Therefore, school education, academic and modern education will be used interchangeably to mean one and the same thing.

[6] Although a more modern practice is to allow the girls to go to school and return to the house after school to continue their period of confinement, this only takes place if the father insists.

[7] In Zambia, the notion ‘basic education’ refers to the first 9 years of compulsory education. This includes 7 years of primary education and 2 years of secondary schooling. The appropriate age cohort is 7-14 years.

[8] Grade represent a year a child spends in school or the level at which one is at school

[9] GER is the “number of primary school pupils as a percentage of the population of the official primary school age” (MOE, 2005, p.8). The official primary school entrance age is 7years.

[10] NER represents “the number of primary school pupils who are 7 to 13 years old as a percentage the population of the official primary school age” (MOE, 2005, p.8).

[11] Survival rate explains the percentage of a pupil cohort actually reaching grade 5

[12] Literacy could be defined as the ability of one to read and write, while functional literacy applies to one with skills in reading and writing sufficient enough for daily ordinary practical needs. This may relate to community development and the teaching of useful life skills (Todaro and Smith, 2003).

[13] A belief which wrongly claims that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS.

[14]. During a press conference on the 16/10/2007, the former president of Zambia, the late Dr L. Mwanawasa, informed the nation that the government intends to build 125 new primary schools, 88 new high schools and 12 technical high schools in the next five years (Phiri, 2007).

[15] The re-admission policy was launched in 1997, by the then Minister of Education Mr Syamukayumbu Syamjay. The policy allows any schoolgirls who became pregnant to return to fulltime education after giving birth.

[16] Despite her publications being old (200 years ago), Mary Wollstonecraft will be referred to in this research because of the relevance of her conceptions in relation to the situation of women in Zambia.

[17] This topic will be discussed in the next chapter.

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The Effects of Cultural Traditions on the Education of women
The Study of the Tumbuka People of Zambia
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A special thanks to Lyn Hall for her encouragement throughout the writing of this Thesis.
what, effects, cultural, traditions, education, study, tumbuka, people, zambia
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Christine Phiri Mushibwe (Author), 2013, The Effects of Cultural Traditions on the Education of women , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 7/25/2014

    A brilliant book on culture, traditions, and women. Further cuts across a range of disciplines such as education and sociology.

    It is a good resource book for college and university students

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