What role do schools play in the construction of masculinities, and how aware of this role are teachers and parents? This paper, written by Fatuma Chege and Francis Likoye, lecturers in the Department of Educational Foundations Kenyatta University, Kenya, focuses on the perceptions of teachers and parents on the constructions of masculinities among schoolboys in Kirinyaga and Nairobi counties. The paper is drawn from a study conducted 2011 and 2012, the guiding objective of which was to interrogate how boys engaged with schooling as they constructed masculinities during their transition to adulthood. The study challenged the basic feminist theories that present men as a group as benefactors of a power structure that oppressed women as a group, thus departing from the traditional Kenyan gender research which can focus on girls’ education without acknowledging the problems faced by boys themselves.
The findings of the report reveal that family and community contexts impart considerable influence on the way that masculine identities were constructed among schoolboys and schoolgirls. Meanwhile, school settings bore considerable influence in the construction of femininities due to an implicit, and sometimes explicit, complementarity between home and school cultures. For many parents and teachers, schooling tended to offer less practical frameworks for the construction of masculine identities compared with frameworks available for constructing feminine identities. Both mothers and fathers generally felt that schooling was becoming less explicitly supportive of boys, principally in the areas of failing to challenge yearnings for material wealth, leisure, and attaining an “easy life” outside of school. Boys were often allowed to fend for themselves, and driven to seek economic independence in ways that girls were not. The authors suggest the use of outside male role models to impart images of positive masculinities, and a renewed focus within families to view the development of boys and girls in a more consistent and equal way.