Unions and Governments
The first of a series of virtual seminars on the future of the teaching profession in Africa for 2020 took place on 15 September. The seminar aims at setting up an iterative process that would result in a consensus between teacher unions and governments around teacher professional issues. The 2020 series specifically focuses on policy and curriculum in in times of crisis. A total of 61 participants representing ministries of education and teacher unions from 8 countries, as well as international stakeholders in education, joined the webinar.
“The theme of this year’s seminar series, is, “Education Disruptions: Professional and Policy responses to COVID-19.” The seminar is jointly organized by Education International and Open Society Foundations (OSF), in collaboration with UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) and the UNESCO International Task Force on Teachers (ITTF). It is the third after the one in Johannesburg in 2018 and Cape Coast in 2019.
Dennis Sinyolo, Chief Regional Coordinator of EI Africa Region, in his opening remarks, stressed that only high teacher professionalism and strong and relevant policies, that are adequately financed and effectively implemented, can help ensure the provision of quality education for all during COVID-19 and beyond. He also explained that genuine, institutionalized, and continuous dialogue with educators and their unions is vital for ensuring harmonious working conditions and successful teacher and education policies.
The keynote speaker was Professor Yusuf Sayed, who carried out research in the eight countries involved in the initiative, highlighted the major findings of the research in terms of changes made to the curriculum and policies in response to the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic and the interrelationship with other crises.
The first session experienced a rich and engaging participation of government and teacher union representatives in sharing experience on how governments and unions collaborated to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure continuity of learning. In general, following school closure because of the pandemic, governments of participating countries adopted distance learning using radio, television, and sometimes online media to keep learning and training ongoing. Speakers acknowledged aggravation of social and gender inequalities in accessing distance learning. Some of the governments engaged in dialogue with teacher unions, others did not. Overall, both teachers and governments indicated the urgent need for policy reform on the curriculum, teacher professional training, and the financing of education with the aim of enabling education systems to provide learning and training in times of crisis.