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Africa: The future of the teacher profession and education addressed by education unions and governments

A series of virtual seminars on the future of the teaching profession is being held in 2020. The first in the series for this year took place on 15 September. There were 61 participants from eight countries. They came from education and teacher unions, ministries of education and international stakeholder groups in education. The seminar is part of a process that it is hoped will lead to a consensus on teacher professional issues between teacher unions and governments. The focus is on collaboration between teachers’ unions and governments to offer better learning opportunities in times of crisis.

The September seminar is the third in the series that began with one in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2018 and one in Cape Coast, Ghana in 2019. For 2020, the theme is, “Education Disruptions: Professional and Policy responses to COVID-19.” The seminar is organised by Education International  and Open Society Foundations (OSF). They are working in collaboration with UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) and the UNESCO International Task Force on Teachers (ITTF). 
 
The webinar was keynoted by Professor Yusuf Sayed, who carried out the research in the eight involved countries. He spoke of the changes made in curriculum and policies due to the pandemic and its effects. 
 
Government and trade union representatives explained:
 
  • How governments and unions collaborated to deal with the spread of COVID-19 to try to assure that learning could continue. 
  • Methods employed, including distance learning using radio, television, and on-line media to try to maintain the learning process despite closures. 
  • The aggravation of social and gender inequalities in accessing distance learning.
  • The urgent need for policy reform on the curriculum, teacher professional training, and the financing of education to provide learning and training by education systems in times of crisis. 
 
Not all participants reported good collaboration between governments and teacher unions, however. In his remarks, Dennis Sinyolo, Chief Regional Coordinator of Education International's Africa Region stressed the importance of genuine, institutionalised, and continuous dialogue of governments with teacher unions, vital to harmonious working conditions and successful teacher and education policies. He argued that quality education for all, during and after COVID-19, requires high teacher professionalism and good, relevant, and well-implemented policies that are adequately financed. 
 
The seminar series will be joined by Ministers for the final session on 6 October.