n Education as Change - Reconceptualising and recontextualising nurturance pedagogy in higher education

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-3206
  • E-ISSN: 1947-9417
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According to Gore (1993:68-69), authority in the construction of feminist pedagogy is addressed in at least three ways, namely : authority versus nurturance; authority as authorship; and authority as power. While authority as authorship suggests considering teaching as an enactment of a narrative in which authority refers to the power to represent and challenge versions of reality; authority as power interrogates the ideal of not replicating traditional conceptions of teacher as single-authority figure that mainstream patriarchal education has been critiqued for. In this paper I explore the theme 'authority versus nurturance', as it emerged from my study, "Enacting Feminisms in Academia", which was conducted with educators teaching English from a feminist perspective at five universities in Southern Africa. Women dominate the teaching profession. However, despite the existence of various egalitarian policy transformation documents and legislation (especially within the South African context), that make provision for women to assume research and senior management positions, their roles and status continue to be tied largely to teaching and administrative duties. These roles inevitably activate and perpetuate patriarchally mandated scripts of women/female teacher as loving nurturer; emanating from the associative and traditional functions of woman as caregiver, and bounteous mother. The expectation for female educators to enact maternal roles becomes more pronounced within institutions of higher education, where massification of education, and substandard pre-tertiary education have seen an increase in the intake of students who arrive for university education with stymied literacy and conceptual skills. Thus, the discourse on nurturance versus authority emerges from attempts to interrogate and reconceptualise the feminisation of education. This paper explores the participants' unanimous efforts to unhinge the female teacher from association with caregiver and intellectualised mammy, while simultaneously ensuring that she is not read as disconnected mother. It also presents the participants' views about the need to recontextualise teacher-student interpersonal relations, to render them more appropriate for relating to university-age students.

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