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African countries recognize the vital role of teachers in fostering quality early childhood education

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The African Conference on Quality Early Childhood Education and the Professionalization of Educators was held in Casablanca (Morocco) from 4-5 December 2019. The Conference was organised following a recommendation from the Pre-Primary Education Thematic Group of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (TTF) which develops initiatives to improve the quantity and quality of teachers at all levels of education, and facilitates the exchange of expertise on key dimensions of the teaching profession.

The Conference was organized by the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Kingdom of Morocco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), in partnership with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) (on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development [BMZ]), the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (TTF), the Moroccan Foundation for the Promotion of Pre-School Education (FMPS), the Regional Centre of Quality and Excellence in Education (RCQE) and the Monegasque Cooperation for Development.

The two-day conference, opened by Mr. Saaïd Amzazi, Minister of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research of Morocco, was attended by representatives and experts from 18 African countries[1], representing government, employer and worker organizations, civil society and international organizations.

Ms. Golda El-Khoury, Director of the UNESCO Office for the Maghreb said “[t]his event marks an important milestone in UNESCO’s efforts in the field of teacher development, because it is the first time that we organize a conference that explicitly focuses on the development and management of the teaching profession that works for our youngest citizens - the early childhood educators”.

Mr Akira Isawa, Deputy-Director of the ILO’s Sectoral Policy Department stated “[w]e are delighted that both the education and labour dimensions of ECE teachers and educators could be addressed at this conference. Quality ECE needs both good training and preparation and decent work for ECE workers to make the profession attractive.”

Discussions focused on how early childhood educators were critical for quality ECE services, and how they were often overlooked in terms of policy attention and investment. Many pre-school educators were poorly qualified, underpaid and lack recognition and adequate working conditions. In almost one quarter of 80 low- and middle-income countries, fewer than half of pre-primary educators met national training requirements in 2009[2].

Qualifications, initial training and professional development are a challenge particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where, in 2017, only 54% of pre-primary teachers were trained, compared to 88% in Northern Africa (UNESCO-UIS). Furthermore, shortages of qualified teachers were especially acute in remote, rural and marginalized areas, where children have the greatest need for quality ECE[3]. Participants in the conference discussed working conditions and it was agreed that although pre-primary and primary teachers generally had similar working hours, the conditions were not the same, with pre-primary teachers having less favourable conditions and remuneration than primary school teachers, resulting in low job satisfaction and high staff turnover. They also discussed challenges in collecting data for the development of country profiles on ECE personnel and the need for up-to-date data to take informed actions in the field of ECE.

Participants recognized the critical role of ECE teachers in developing a strong foundation for lifelong learning and the development of children. Young children cannot benefit from quality learning without attentive, responsive, well-trained and motivated teachers, demonstrating the need for increased and sustainable investment in training, improvement of conditions, and the development of professional careers and career prospects for ECE personnel.

The Casablanca Declaration was a key outcome from the Conference. The Declaration recognizes that qualified teachers and educators are key to quality ECE, and that decent work is an essential strategy to attract and retain quality ECE teachers and educators. Specifically, it:

  • Recognizes that qualified teachers and educators are key to quality ECE and that ensuring quality training and professionalization for teachers and educators, as well as decent working conditions is a priority for achieving SDG target 4.2;
  • Calls for the institutionalization of pre-service and in-service training for all ECE school leaders, teachers, educators, and caregivers, as well as recognition and valorization of their profession by ensuring decent working conditions and a voice in decisions affecting their work;
  • Acknowledges that decent work and social dialogue were an essential strategy to attract and retain quality ECE teachers and educators; and
  • Commits to strengthening regional and inter-regional cooperation and exchange of expertise to improve the quality of ECE and to working towards the development and implementation of an African quality framework for ECE (including a teacher and educator competency framework).

 

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[1] Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

[2] ILO, 2013. ILO Guidelines on the Promotion of Decent Work for Early Childhood Education Personnel; ILO, 2012. Good beginning: Early Childhood Educators. See the document.  

[3] Neuman, M.J., K. Josephson, P.G. Chua. 2015. A literature review: ECCE personnel in low- and middle-income countries. See the document.