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» » » Covid-19: How gender roles affect a female varsity student


Tariro Nendanga


Felix Matasva

MUTARE- Tertiary education is no longer rosy for a 23-year-old Dangamvura based Midlands State University (MSU) female student because the new way of learning through the internet at home is being negatively affected by traditional gender roles in the wake of Covid-19.

Ever since Zimbabwe implemented a national lockdown in March 2020 as part of efforts to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus, tertiary institutions had to integrate online technologies that enable students to learn from home.

As the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths escalated during the past festive season, the country reverted to a hard lockdown with universities rescinding face-to-face lessons.

Tariro Nendanga (23), not real name, a female student studying for an Honours Degree in Media and Society Studies at MSU, says she is finding the online learning very tough as she has to balance many priorities at home.

For Tariro, the process of adapting physical lectures to e-learning in the wake of Covid-19 is not at all rosy.

There is a set of responsibilties, skills, attitude and behaviour that is expected of Tariro by her father as well as by the wider society, and these expectations are seldom supportive to the demands for online learning.

Tariro's situation represents the life of many female tertiary students who are being deprived of their right to education due to traditional gender roles.

She says her family does not accord her extra time to focus on her school work as would be necessary under the new learning conditions.

“Learning from home has not been easy for me as I am required to go through several house chores before I can settle down for school work

"I had, however, expected that there would be an understanding that since e-learning requires more time, I would be spared some of the home duties,” Tariro told TellZim News.

She says being on campus was more favourable to her studying routines as she had more time to concentrate on her school work with much less disturbances.

"My father treats me like a maid and does not consider that I am still a student. I cannot study or write my assignments in time because I will be preoccupied with house chores.

"I sweep the houses, do all the laundry, wash dishes, fetch water and by the time I try to log into my e-library, my mind is exhausted. 

"He does not assign such duties to my brother as he considers them to be for girls. He says a woman's education is nothing when she can not perform her daily house chores," said Nendanga.

She once engaged her church so that church leaders could speak sense to her father but it did not help.

"Our Church members told me to perform all my duties and responsibilities as expected of a woman by society. They said no matter how busy, I could still manage,” she said.

Tariro also said other problems like lack of reliable access to the internet as well as the high cost of data were other challenges she faces.

“The mobile data that I use to get into the internet is expensive and sometimes my area loses access due to the rainy weather conditions,” said Tariro.

She says she would be glad if the lockdown got lifted as that would mean the resumption of physical lectures.


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