Politics Of Management In Basic Schools: Women Leadership In Focus

Being a Paper Presented at the 34th Annual Conference of the National Association of Educational Administration and Planning (NAEAP) Held at Benin City From 6th- 8th October, 2015.

1 BAKWAI, Bala 



3YUSUF, Aishatu 

1,  2 & 3  Department of Educational Foundations,
Faculty of Education and Extension Services,
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.
Email Address: bakwaibala@gmail.com & bala.bakwai@udusok.edu.ng
Phone Numbers: 08035448236 & 08054821103 & 08092443502 


This paper explores the political conditions that may enhance or hinder the participation of women in decision-making affecting basic schools management in North West Zone, Nigeria. It does not offer definite, statistically tested conclusions. Instead, this paper relies on existing studies of basic school management to extract hypotheses that seem applicable in some cases and testable in others. This paper should be read more as a review of literature and a guide to future research than as an endorsement of specific recommendations. The paper views the concept of gender, politics in education, women place in leadership position, and basic schools. The challenges identified to be affecting women participation in leadership position include:  women self-perception; the hiring and promotion policy; women’s lack of willingness to relocate; community belief on women’s status; and stereotypes and prejudice. The paper, therefore, recommended that educational managers should facilitate the removal of culture and traditional norms hindering women participation through legal instruments and policies. It was also recommended that there should be continued sensitization of community members on gender issues that do not go contrary to Islamic religion. This is because; any issue that will affect the religion of Islam may not yield a better result in the North.

Keywords: Politics, Leadership Position, Management, Basic Schools, Northern Nigeria.


There is widespread consensus worldwide that improving the performance of  education systems is necessary to  advances economic development, reduce inequality, enhance the economic competitiveness of nations and possibly fortify governmental institutions. Nevertheless, meaningful education reforms often fail to get approved or implemented mostly for political reason (Corrale, 1999). To meet the challenges of an ever-changing education system, educational reforms must have access to a large pool of human resource, including the neglected gender that may be willing to commit their time and expertise to transform school management into a viable outcome (Briggs & Wohlstetter, 2003).

Due to educational discrimination against women, women are denied the opportunity to acquire necessary experience for entry into technical occupations and managerial level posts. This excludes women from senior management positions and creates a significant gap in top management positions. This in turn creates an unrepresentative body at the strategic decision making levels (Cotter, 2004).

Despite considerable progress regarding the legal status of women and gender equality, women and men do not enjoy equal right in practice (Cotter, 2004; Van-Deventer & Kruger, 2003). This underrepresentation of women in leadership structures shows that structural gender inequalities remain firmly imbedded in most societies. Specific measures must be developed to identify and remove the underlying causes of discrimination on educational leadership that maintain women in the lower strata. Women are overwhelmingly represented only in lower echelons of the education field but are poorly represented among the ranks of school managers (Briggs & Wohlstetter, 2003).

In view of the above, this paper argues that all forms of leadership regarding basic school management should not solely confine to men. This is because researches indicate that women are as capable as men on managing educational systems and programmes. Therefore, the role of women in the current Universal Basic Education (UBE) reform in the North Western states should not be overemphasized.

Conceptual Definitions

Gender refers to the set of values and attributes a society places on the physical difference between men and women. Of these differences, a society can assumes and decides on the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of men and women. This socio-culturally learnt process shapes the kind of opportunities men and women have. In this way, different limitations and expectations are imposed on both men and women (Moorosi, 2010). Gender is a societal construct. It is what a society expects an individual to understand as being a male or female. It is what it means to any particular society for an individual to be regarded as a male or female (Olubor, 2004). Gender also refers to the roles and responsibilities ascribed to females and males by the society.

Politics and Education

Politics is group decision-making so it affects most of what goes on in education system. Politics as decision-making is about knowing who are the controllers of what goes on in a system (Fagan, n.d). Politics is a kind of game play that involves activities which people enter into to pursue groups, personal or their selfish interest(s). The term politics according to Nkyabonaki (2013) engulf issues of who will get what, how and when. This power dimension is crucial when considering any educational programme at all stages. He further stresses that:

Politics is generally used to refer to those activities that revolve around the decision-making organs of the state and involves the related concepts of power, authority, command and control. Some political scientists extend politics to cover any activity at all levels of human relationships, which involves power and authority. They argue that conflict is an indispensable characteristic of any human relationship and when conflicts are resolved and the solution imposed with power and authority, the activity becomes political. Hence, politics exists in trade unions, families, corporations, schools etc. By far, every person in society seems to engage in politics but some individuals are more directly involved in political activities than others are, hence they are called political actors e.g. politicians etc (p.112).

Owen (2006) notes that "Educational politics, like politics in general, revolves around three entities: people, values and resources" (p. 7). Politics of education is all about the formulation of visions of education and finding ways to achieve them.  This entails setting educational goals and mobilizing the resources it takes to attain them (Olubor, 2004).   Politics of education encompasses the activities involved in getting and using power in education system, and being able to influence decisions that affect an institution or programme.

In this paper, politics of education is seen an act whereby educational managers use their power or authority to influence the decision of others to their advantage. In this context, authority means the power or right a person has to give orders to other people. Influence on the other hand is the power educational managers have to make people in an educational organization behave the way they want them to behave.



Place of Women in Leadership Position

Gender inequality is a political issue. This inequality is brought about by patriarchy where male dominate political position in the society, non-gender responsive political policies and environment, gender financial constraints and under-representation of women in elective and appointive position. The amplified awareness of gender politics combined with challenges about gender equity in educational institutions and programmes remain a thorny concern in educational system (Damons, 2008). Today women in North Western Zone, Nigeria are becoming increasingly aware of the important role they can play in transforming educational bodies but are underrepresented in bodies responsible for educational decision-making.

Nigeria more particularly the North West Zone, is a patriarchal society, which places a high premium on the male populace and relegates to the background the women folk and their contributions to national development. Okiy (2004) stated that right from infancy, the female child is seen largely by Nigeria society as a mistake and an undesirable addition to the family because she will not be able to carry on the family name. Okoye (1997) in Okiy (2004) asserted that women are given fewer educational opportunities than men in Nigeria, as reflected in the lower literacy rates for the adult female population compared to men. Factors such as male chauvinism, child labour, religion, and socio-economic factors combine to increase drop-out rates of girls from school to as much as 36 percent, even before completion of primary school education. In the Nigerian society however, observations show that men are competent, skilful, assertive, aggressive and able to get things done. Women on the other hand are warm and expensive, tactful, quiet, gentle aware of others feelings and lacking in competence, independence and logic (Akinleye, 2000).

The survey of literature confirms the existence of gender bias, which leads to limited pro- education opportunities being availed to one gender and not to the other (Pirouznia and Sims 2006). However, the effect of one’s position on the perception of different factors responsible for women’s underrepresentation in basic school leadership position has not been sufficiently studied (Uwizeyimana, Modiba, & Mathevula, 2014). The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in employment being one of the most pressing issues today (Omirin & Faremi, 2012). Historically, especially in countries such as South Africa, during apartheid and to a certain extent, the United States of America (USA), race, culture and ethnicity, religion and language as well as marital status have been identified as the main factors affecting and defining women participation in education reforms and programmes (Moorosi 2010). Just because gender inequality is inextricably linked to societal norms, religion or cultural traditions, it should not be either a deterrent or an excuse to gender sensitive development planning (Omirin & Faremi, 2012).

It should be noted that even where female educators are dominating teaching line, the irony is that male educators (Uwizeyimana, Modiba, & Mathevula, 2014) currently occupy most top leadership positions. In North West Zone, Nigeria, men dominated all the education sectors including the current UBE programme. Hence, the chance for women to make decision regarding the basic school remains very slight. USAID (2008) points out the equity mechanisms for achieving gender equality in some selected countries which can also be applicable to Nigeria in achieving the stated goals of UBE include: The uses of scholarship to help alleviate the disparity in men and women educational attainment; Additional equity tools such as special programmes for women have been implemented to increase achievement and encourage women participation in education; Equity must be reflected in policies and practices directed toward learners, teachers and the community; Monitoring progress toward achieving gender equality is also important; Measuring changes over time requires that data be disaggregated by sex to illustrate the differential impact of activities on males and females.

Basic Schools Management in Nigeria

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Programme is an educational programme aimed at eradicating illiteracy, ignorance and poverty. The implementation of the universal basic education scheme in Nigeria started with its official launch on 30th September, 1999 in Sokoto, Sokoto State. The vision of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) is that at the end of 9 years of continuous education, every child should have acquired appropriate and relevant skills and values and be employable in order to contribute his/her quota to national development (Tahir, 2005). The programme if properly implemented would help the country achieve the following: quality education, achievement of the MDGs, more jobs for Nigerian citizens, curbing of indiscipline and crime, reduction in child labour,  reduction of gender imbalance in educational attainment, reduction of the level of poverty, better health for the Nigerian child, motivating students to enrol in schools (Anaduaka & Okafor, 2013). The UBE act of 2004 covers;  (i) Early child care development and education (ECCDE) (ii) Six years of primary Education (iii) Three years of junior secondary education. (Tahir, 2005)

Universal Basic Education is the educational activities that children, youth and adults participate; it is a nine years free and compulsory education programme. It comprised six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education. One of its fundamental principles is that everybody must have access to equivalent education comprehensively and co-educationally. The objectives of the Universal Basic Education programme are to develop the entire Nigerian citizen with a strong consciousness for education and strong commitment to its vigorous promotion; provide free Universal Basic Education for every Nigerian child of school going age and reduced drastically the incidence of drop-out from the formal school system; cater for the young persons and other out-of-school-children or adolescents through appropriate form of complementary approaches to the universal basic education (Daura, & Audu, 2015).

In order to cope with the challenges from the rapidly changing needs of schools (particularly basic schools), in 1990s and the 21st century, numerous educational reforms and school restructuring movements have been implemented to pursue educational effectiveness and school development in many countries of the world (Cheng & Townsend, 2000). The search for effective schools, the shift to school-based management, the emphasis on development planning in school, the assurance of school education quality, the implementation of new curricula and the application of information technology in education are typical examples of efforts towards educational reform (Cheng, 2001a, 2001b;). Among all these reforms, school-based management (SBM) is one of the most salient international trends of school reform, which emphasizes decentralization down to the school level as the major means for promoting effective decision-making, improving internal processes, and utilizing resources in teaching and learning to meet the diverse school-based educational needs (Cheng & Chan, 2000; Cheng & Cheung, 1999). Decentralization, school autonomy, site-based decision-making, and flexible use of resources themselves are the means but not the final aims of school-based management (Cheng, 2004).



Challenges Affecting Women Participation in Leadership Position

Different challenges account for low women participation in SBM leadership. These include:

  1. Women Self-Perception

Some women themselves perceive that their fitness to hold leadership positions and their uncertainty about their God give leadership abilities is low as compared to that of men. Very few female educators are aware of their own capabilities while the majority are not aware of their talent and skills. This is a barrier because they will wait for someone to tell them that they can be capable leaders before they can start aspiring for leadership positions (Uwizeyimana, Modiba & Mathevula, 2014). The emergence of divergent rather than convergent views on women leaders in school management positions being uncertain about their abilities to productively and profitably lead and mange an institution of learning is not entirely astonishing if one takes into account the fact that patriarchy has conditioned females to be seen and see themselves as home-makers (Prentice and Carranza 2002).

The fact that few women have started noticing their God given abilities to manage suggest a gradual and positive change in the self-image of women is taking place. Therefore, the only thing the women who have realized their God given ability to manage have to do is to assert themselves and to fearlessly campaign for their own, and other women’s emancipation (Prentice and Carranza 2002).

  1. The Hiring and Promotion Policy

The hiring and promotion policies have deficiency and defectiveness against the female gender. Discriminatory hiring and promotion procedures are uncalled for and illicit. Unfair practices continue to exist when it comes to appointments to promotion positions at schools (Uwizeyimana, Modiba & Mathevula, 2014).

Lack of networking by women leaders and managers as a serious obstacle to those women’s promotion in basic school leadership positions. The review of literature (Damons, 2004) advises that minimal networking by today’s female basic school leaders could be explained in terms of lack of available female role models. Further, this could be the product of minimal mentoring systems in the education system.

  1. Women’s Lack of Willingness to Relocate

Many women in the North Western Zone, Nigeria refuse to take any managerial position that demands frequent leaving their matrimonial home. Women’s under representations in UBE seem to be as a result of their family responsibilities which make them unwilling to accept leadership positions which require them to relocate or to travel long distances from home. Lack of colleagues and family support as well as excessive family responsibility wreaks havoc to some female educators who could have availed themselves for basic school leadership positions (Uwizeyimana, Modiba & Mathevula, 2014).

  1. Community Belief on Women’s Status

Over the years, the role of women in Northern Nigeria has been maintained to child bearing and housekeeping. Therefore, in North Western Nigeria, social relations and activities of women and men are governed by patriarchal system of socialization and cultural practices, which favour the interest of men above those of women (Oyigbenu, 2010). This conceptualization of status of the women by the societies, make them only plays subordinate roles to those of the men. This trend has inevitably led to the low position of women in decision-making and their inability to compete with their male counterparts in the North West Zone, when it comes to high positions in UBE programme (Abbagana, 2013). ‘Pudah’ (women seclusion) is another factor that hinders North Western Nigerian women from participating to be involved in the affairs of UBE programme.

  1. Stereotypyes and Prejudice

Daft (1991; p.445) defines a sterotype as “widely held generalization about a group of people that assigns attributes to them solely on the basis of a limited number of categories”. It is people tendencies to attributes events or actions of an individual on the basis of an assessment of a group to which the individual belong (Damons, 2004). Prejudice on the other hand is an act of forming on opinion about a particular condition before viewing or assessing the condition (Mathipa & Tsoka, 2000). This opinion may also be formed without gathering facts. People judged on the presumptions as well as preconceived ideas (Damons, 2004). Prejudice may be caused by stereotypes generalizations emanating from culture, custom and belief (Greyvenstein, 2003).

Etuk [(2004) submits that the endorsement of gender-stereotyping and gender discrimination in the Nigerian socio-cultural patterns have had a pronounced negative effects on the human resource development and availability, quantitatively and qualitatively in Nigeria. Etuk (2004) recounts that the negative effects of these gender-stereotyping have weighted more against our women-folk in most part of Nigeria. Another twin challenge difficult to detach from gender stereotyping is sex-role stereotyping (Prentice & Carranza 2002). Together they help to account for the underrepresentation of the womenfolk in school management positions (Akpinar-Sposito, 2012).


To be able to overcome the challenges associated with gender participation in decision-making with respect to basic school management, the paper come up with the following recommendations:

  1. Removal of culture and traditional norms hindering women participation through legal instruments and policies

  2. At the community level, there should be continued sensitization of community members on gender issues that do not go contrary to Islamic religion. This is because any issues that will go against the religion of Islam may not be accepted in the North.

  3. The few successful women should form an alliance to enforce the implementation of gender policy in education system, particularly in basic school management.

  4. There should be researches on large scale to find out the extent to which the women who are currently occupying positions are willing to help or support other women who want to be appointed in similar positions at all levels of UBE.

  5. Since UBE is participatory in nature, there should be participatory approach to formulation and implementation of its policies and programmes. In this regard, women groups should form a forum that will work with relevant UBE bodies for effective leadership representation.

  6. Women should use available UBE structures, religious and traditional leaders to support and monitor gender implementation plans.


Mainstreaming gender in basic school management will enable men and women to work collectively together in order to ensure improved performance of the UBE programme. Mainstreaming is the best strategy that makes women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of UBE policies and programmes. This does not only help in achieving gender equality but improve the programme efficiencies as many of the leadership role cannot solely played by men alone. Redressing these gender inequalities in the North Western society of Nigeria is essential to the achievement of the goals of basic education in this area.





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