Several events were organised in different parts of Africa on World Teachers’ Day (WTD), October 5th, acknowledging the crucial role of teachers who provide the youth of the continent quality education and a peaceful, sustainable future. African Governments must invest in teachers, motivate, and support them.
At the Regional/African WTD's commemoration event in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, co-organised with UNESCO, the African Union (AU) and UNICEF, Dr. Dennis Sinyolo, Director of the Education International Africa Regional Office (EIRAF) stated that “poor salaries and working conditions have impaled the dignity of the African teacher. We welcome the recommendations of the United Nations' High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession calling on governments to address the global teacher shortage and to restore the dignity of the teaching profession by providing long-term funding for well-qualified and well-supported teachers.”
EIRAF’s five-point plan for revitalising the teaching profession in Africa
He went on to propose a five-point plan for revitalising the teaching profession in Africa, calling on African governments to:
1. Train and recruit enough qualified teachers. Every student has the right to a highly trained, professionally qualified, supported, and motivated teacher.
2. Trust and respect teachers by giving them the professional autonomy and freedom they need to teach creatively, collaborate, and carry out research.
3. Make teaching an attractive and a first choice profession by ensuring decent salaries and working conditions of teachers.
4. Involve teachers in genuine and institutionalised social and policy dialogue through their unions.
5. Invest in education and teachers by meeting the internationally agreed education financing benchmarks of allocating at least 20% of the national budget or at least 6% of Gross Domestic Product to education.
Stressing that, through the ongoing Go Public! Fund Education campaign, EI will continue to press on African governments to provide quality public education for all, Dr. Sinyolo reiterated: “A quality education delivered by highly trained, professionally qualified, trusted, valued, supported, and motivated teachers.”
African Union’s continental teacher award ceremony
Eight teachers hailing from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa were recognised during the African Union’s (AU) continental teacher award ceremony and webinar on teaching profession.
AU Monica Idinoba, on behalf of Professor Mohammed Belhocine, the AU Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI), started her welcome remarks by reminding that “the transformation of education begins with teachers,” and “every profession is developed through the teaching profession.”
Teacher development, she said, is a key priority of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-25.
She also said that while Africa has made significant progress in terms of access to education, there are still gaps within and among African countries: “If nothing is done to transform education, the targets set by CESA, the AU Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, and UN sustainable development goals won’t be met, with a long-term impact on children’s learning and on different aspects of human development on the continent.”
For the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Ethiopia, Roland Kobia, a former teacher himself, “teachers are at the heart of education systems” and “COVID showed how resilient and adaptative education systems are.”
He added that when they renewed their partnership, the EU and the AU reaffirmed that education was a joint priority.
“The imprint teachers leave on children’s minds has no prize, makes a lasting impact on their lives,” he concluded.
The UNESCO-International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) Director, Quentin Wodon, also underlined that his organisation released on October 5th a Regional Training Guide to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for pre- and in-service teachers in Africa.
The training guide he said, shows that the outbreak of COVID-19 negatively impacted teachers, teacher educators, and learners and the entire education system was impacted and psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, frustration, and stress were exacerbated.
“As an institute whose mission is to empower teachers for all learners to thrive, we remain committed to strengthening teachers’ mental health and psychosocial well-being on the African continent. Teachers are undoubtedly at the heart of the realisation of quality education; therefore, their well-being is key to improved learning outcomes,” he agreed.