Ms Sandhia Ganesh, a full-time English teacher at a boys’ school in KwaZulu-Natal, is graduating with a master’s degree in Gender Studies.
Ganesh is an advocate for life-long learning, evident within her own journey. It has always been her ambition to further her academic studies and considers her latest academic achievement a personal victory – overcoming both cancer and COVID-19 to achieve her dream.
As an educator and through her own life experience, she is acutely aware of school violence and toxic masculinities and their dire consequences for young, vulnerable people.
Ganesh’s dissertation entitled: Masculinities and Violence in a Privileged School in KZN – an Ethnographic Case Study, examined the conflations of masculinities and violence in a privileged school context to debunk the assumption that there is little or no violence in these settings as compared to under-resourced public schools.
Her study reveals that there is an intricate web of events such as race, class, culture and socio-economic conditions, connected to school violence with clear links between conceptions of masculinity and conceptions of power. Age, body size, unrestrained authority bestowed on older boys in leadership positions, school ethos and traditions, as well as societal and patriarchal notions all contribute to unequal gender relations and toxic masculinity.
The research and findings suggest that school leadership should examine their gender regimes and note if they are implicitly supporting violence. The study also calls for a re-evaluation of schools’ codes of conduct, sports, orientation programmes, power invested in prefects, anti-bullying programmes and sexual education policies.
‘School violence is adversative to the function of schools as protective and secure spaces to educate children. There is a serious need for the re-conceptualising of school violence through a gender lens,’ Ganesh said.
She hopes her study’s findings will generate an understanding of how to create better societies and curb violence.
Ganesh was supervised by Professor Deevia Bhana from the School of Education. ‘Professor Bhana goes beyond her role as a supervisor. She is a powerhouse of knowledge which she readily shares and provides opportunities for deep learning – such as workshops, writing retreats and discussions with renowned academics. She is a role model and a legend in her fight for gender justice. She is both my friend and mentor.
‘My family’s support must also be acknowledged, especially my daughter, Nivida, and my sister-in-law, Neev who always believed in me. I’m also grateful to my friend, Chenay Singh, who helped refine all my inconsistencies in referencing. This is one of my biggest achievements; only possible because I had the best supporters,’ said Ganesh.
Bhana said, ‘I had the privilege of supporting Sandhia Ganesh and can attest to her remarkable strength and dedication. Her story is not just one of academic success, but also of personal triumph in the face of adversity. I offer her my congratulations and may her story continue to inspire us all.’
Self-improvement and life-long learning will always motivate her – two things she knows will also push her to be a better teacher. ‘I teach English to Grades 12, 11 and 9 and I have benefitted hugely from this study in terms of how I approach curriculum content,’ said Ganesh.