Building Peaceful Catholic Schools: Gender Focus Materials

By Kelsay Correa | September 21, 2016

CIE would like to invite staff in Catholic Schools and Catholic School Offices to participate in conversation-circles to explore gender. These materials have been developed as part of a gender focus in the Building Peaceful Catholic Schools’ Programme for 2016. However, we would like to offer them to the wider Catholic school network – and to any others who would like to work with them. 


The materials comprise an introduction and five activities and can be downloaded from the CIE website:

Exploring Gender in South African Schools: Materials for Teachers - Introduction

1.       Scripture text: A Woman Challenges Jesus

2.       Comprehension text: I am a Girl

3.       From a textbook: A Life Orientation activity, and a background page on ‘rape culture’

4.       Position and response texts: The Rhodes ‘list’ debate – two views

5.       Exploring Gender in My School


These are materials for teachers. We recommend that you begin by reading the introduction, Exploring Gender. The activities that follow each have a suggested process, materials, and questions for discussion. While you will decide what you are able to do, here are some thoughts that might help.


1. A conversation can assist us to find each other by reading the materials and by listening our way into an enlarged understanding of gender and how it manifests in our society, schools, and materials and approaches we use with students. It need not be rushed. For example, in small groups or a large staff circle, the process can be introduced, and the texts read aloud. Thereafter, the questions can be discussed. The first activity, Scripture text: A Woman Challenges Jesus, offers a prayerful way into considering gender, and a host of issues that might arise as you venture onto this terrain, but can be done (as suggested) in a large staff circle in 20 minutes. The contextual information in this activity illustrates how even as we might wish to foreground gender, other critical issues (like race, class, age, positional power) can also suddenly be visible and voiced. Be gentle with each other. Focus on listening – and making sure that every voice has a chance to be heard. Set some boundary agreements for conversations on the following activities. Don’t be afraid of strong feelings or contrary views – but do ask that participants offer these in the form of I-language (i.e. each person speaks for themselves, preferably from their own experience). If necessary, ask for a moment of quiet reflection. And should conversation stray away from gender, look for an opportunity to invite your colleagues to refocus their thinking, speaking, and listening.  

2. You may find that a conversation among equals requires practice – and that our meetings and staffroom interactions may be less conversational than we thought.

3. The Comprehension and From a textbook activities could be discussed in 25-35 minutes – perhaps in small groups, with a further 10-15 minutes for some plenary sharing (if needed). You may name further examples in a range of learning areas where gender needs careful sensitivity and alertness to fairness and the dignity of all.

4. The Position and response texts: The Rhodes ‘list’ debate – two views calls for a different approach. Perhaps participants might agree to read the first text (Seddon) prior to meeting. But school-life is always busy, so you might prefer to gather to read the text aloud – even a few paragraphs at a time before school for a few days. Find the pace and approach that suits you. When you’ve finished one text, decide if you’d like to proceed with the response (Heideman). If your interest is piqued, two further texts are also mentioned.

5. Exploring Gender in My School is a reflection activity to help us look at our views, policies, and practices – there may be some things, at this point in the conversation, that we’d like to change.

The capacity to listen to each other and find ways to talk things through is sorely needed in our society, our schools and homes, and by ourselves and our learners. But good, rich conversations live on inside us, thicken the texture of shared understanding, come to inform the way we do our work and interact with each other, and can begin – or continue – the change in ourselves that we’d like to see in our schools and society.  

Resources for download:

Gender materials Covering letter
BPCS Gender Focus 2016 Introduction

1. The Bible, The Reader and Gender
2a. 'Because I am a girl' Process
2b. 'Because I am a girl' Text
3a. A Life Orientation Text Book Activity
3b. Background on 'rape culture' & 'victim blaming'
4a. Position & Response Texts & The Rhodes 'Reference List' Debate
4b. Position & Response Texts & Seddon on Reference List at Rhodes
4c. Position & Response Texts & Heideman's response to Seddon on Reference List at Rhodes
5. Reflecting on Gender and My School



CIE supports poor Catholic schools in South Africa who have many desperate needs. We strive to give every child in our schools the education they deserve.