By Irene Best Nyapendi
Dr. Gladys Ayot Oyat’s inspiration to pursue a PhD in Education Administration and Management at Uganda Christian University (UCU) is rooted in her passion for addressing real-world challenges. Her commitment to women’s issues served as a driving force in choosing a research topic focused on the domestic violence impact on female teachers in Uganda.
Ayot’s research explores how domestic violence affects the teaching and administrative roles of female teachers working in secondary schools in Kitgum, northern Uganda.
Her study found that domestic violence adversely affects teaching roles, leading to poor service delivery, absenteeism, missed lessons, poor preparation, low self-esteem and mental health issues. This likewise negatively impacts women in administrative roles, resulting in reduced work, interpersonal relationships, learning outputs and mentorship. Female teachers employ various coping mechanisms, both informal and formal, but some strategies prove counterproductive. Support for victims is insufficient, hindering their ability to manage these challenges effectively.
Ayot found that the patriarchal nature of Ugandan society determines relationships between men and women irrespective of educational status.
“A lot needs to be done to address this challenge,” she said. “It undermines the laws we have in Uganda entrenched in our Constitution. My disappointment is that even women who are enlightened and educated, conceal what they go through in the name of protecting their marriage, adhering to culture and wanting to remain as role models to the students they teach when they are exposed to domestic violence. Worse still, taking the pain in silence and blaming themselves for the dysfunctional families.”
One moving story she encountered in her research involved a husband forcing his wife to have an abortion.
“This caused post-traumatic symptoms and depression,” Ayot said. “She would (imagine) the crying baby sitting on her lap and crying for help while she was in class teaching.”
With the dissemination of her findings, Ayot aims to encourage female teachers to be open to talking about the problems they go through and seeks for school administrators to support and create favorable conditions for women suffering from domestic violence.
Ayot, who was a member of the governing council of UCU, did her PhD on a modular course, which allowed her to study during the holidays.
She lauded UCU’s academic environment for its unique and supportive characteristics. The university’s modular approach, small class sizes, and strong faculty-student relationships fostered an atmosphere of shared learning and collaboration.
“I thank God that I chose UCU. My supervisor was very supportive; for example, during the Covid-19 pandemic time, he always called to follow up and give me support,” she said. “At the time when public places such as universities were closed as a way of curbing the spread of disease, I utilized the online university library.”
Ayot acknowledged the hectic and difficult journey to a PhD — long hours, rejection of proposals, and balancing social and work responsibilities.
“I was a wife and head teacher of Kitgum YY Okot Memorial College (2002-2022),” she said. “I had social responsibilities that I couldn’t ignore. At some point, I wanted to give up; for example, when I was working on chapter three of my research and my supervisor kept on asking me to redo it.”
However, her unwavering determination and support from her family, particularly her husband, who purchased grammar editing software for her, became pillars of strength.
Ayot said that being 61 years old also motivated her, knowing that she didn’t have as much time as the younger students.
“I told myself that I am not the type who should spend 10 years doing research. I wanted to do it and finish,” she said.
She is married to Dr. Michael Oyat with whom they have four children. She has served in the church as chairperson mothers union and is currently a lay Canon at Kitgum diocese. She studied a Bachelor and Masters in Education at Makerere University. She has served as Vice President, Mothers Union for the Province of Church of Uganda.