Governments and Teacher Unions renew their working commitment
The fourth and final session of the series of online seminars on the Future of the Teaching Profession in Africa for 2020 took place on 6th October. The seminar was dedicated to adopting the Consensus Document between teacher unions and governments around teacher professional issues. Participants included Ministers of Education of South Africa and Ethiopia, ministry officials and teacher union leadership from eight African countries, namely, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, and Uganda.
The theme of this fourth session was ‘’Education Disruptions: Renewing the Commitment to Collaboration between Governments and Teacher Unions’’ and was moderated by Dr. Dennis Sinyolo, Chief Regional Coordinator of EI Africa. The seminar was organised 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 for Education 2030 (TTF).
In his opening remarks for the plenary session, Dr. Sinyolo gave an overview of the seminar series and linked it to the 24-hour virtual celebration of the World Teachers’ Day. He indicated that for the occasion, the EI Africa Region has commissioned research on the COVID-19 pandemic and education in Africa. The research was carried out by Professor Steve Nwokeocha, Director of Africa Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authorities (AFTRA), and sought to assess the impact of the pandemic on education systems, learners, teachers and education support personnel as well as to collect examples of education unions’ responses to the crisis. The Executive Summary of the survey is available in three languages English, French and Portuguese.
The seminar gave an opportunity for the exchange of experiences indicating that in countries where government and teacher unions collaborated in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the response was more successful than where there was no collaboration. According to Hon Angelina Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education for South Africa, “Teachers feel reassured in implementing a policy when they know their unions are involved in that policy development.” She also indicated the need to involve students’ parents in addressing crises that affect the education system. Hon Dr. Eng. Getahun Mekuriya, the Minister of Education of Ethiopia reported on how the teaching profession is considered by the Ethiopian government who decided to recognise the profession through the establishment of a prize for renowned teachers across the country.
The collaboration between government representatives and teacher union leaders at the various sessions of the virtual seminars beginning on 15 September resulted in the development of a Consensus Document. The Document outlines possible actions on how governments and teacher unions could work in partnership to advance both the teaching profession and the quality of education, especially in times of crisis around the topics of curriculum, assessment, Continuous Professional Learning and Development and psychosocial support for students and teachers. This fourth session ended with the unanimous adoption of the Document.
Overall, Ministers of Education, Senior Ministry Officials and union representatives acknowledged that working in partnership as government and teacher unions was more beneficial for the education systems on the continent. In language-based breakout sessions, participants identified key actions on which governments and unions could commit to advance areas outlined in the consensus document.
International partners including the International Teacher Task Force, UNESCO-IICBA and Education International with the support of the Open Society Foundations volunteered to make a follow up of the joint commitments of governments and teachers unions.