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  • 05.10.2020
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2020 World Teachers' Day fact sheet

Teachers are the cornerstone on which we build inclusive, equitable, quality education. The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially compromised teachers’ capacity to maintain education quality due to...
News
  • 30.08.2021

Supporting teachers in back-to-school efforts: A toolkit for school leaders

Many schools in the northern hemisphere will resume in-person classes in the coming weeks after over a year of intermittent closures - despite the continued presence and uncertain evolution of the COVID-19 virus. Other schools will opt for hybrid teaching and learning. Whichever modality they choose, the reopening of schools that had been closed because of COVID-19 continues to raise many questions for school leaders. They need to put the school community’s safety and health first. At the same time, they have to ensure that schools’ front-line workers – teachers and education support staff – have the help, protection and tools they need to resume work.  Teachers have played a key role during school closures by ensuring that learning can continue and by keeping in touch with students and their families. Their role during school reopening will be just as important.

Last year, UNESCO, the Teacher Task Force and the International Labour Organization released a toolkit to help school leaders support and protect teachers and education support staff in the return to school. The toolkit complements the joint Framework for Reopening Schools and the Task Force's policy guidance. It breaks down the seven dimensions in the policy guidance into a series of actionable guiding questions and tips. While many education systems have already been closed and reopened several times over the past year, the dimensions on supporting and protecting teachers and students remain relevant. These include how to support teachers’ health, safety and well-being, how to foster dialogue with teachers and the community, and how to ensure learning resumes.

Download the Toolkit in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

Seven dimensions to support teachers and staff as schools reopen:

Figure 1. Seven dimensions to support teachers and staff as schools reopen

The toolkit recognizes the importance of local context. In many countries the pandemic is still evolving daily. Local decisions about when to reopen schools will be determined by a broad range of considerations; what is right for one school may not be right for another. In all contexts, school leaders will need to set priorities  and recognize that  trade-offs may be needed.

The toolkit shows us that school leaders will need to think about key issues in relation to teachers and education support staff as they adapt national directives to plan to reopen their schools.

  • The importance of consultation and communication

Teachers, school staff and their representative organizations should be actively involved in setting out policies and plans for school reopening, including occupational safety and health measures to protect personnel. Communication with teachers, learners and education support staff about reopening can ensure clarity about expectations  and highlight their role in the success  of safe, inclusive return-to-school efforts, including overall well-being, and the teaching and learning recovery process.

As decisions to reopen schools are made by central authorities, it will be important to communicate early, clearly and regularly with parents and school communities to understand their concerns and build support for plans to reopen. Parents will want to know what safeguards have been put in place to minimize health risks. They will also need to hear about the school’s ongoing commitment to key educational principles and goals. As teachers are often the first point of contact with parents, they will need to be prepared to ensure everyone is informed continually.

  • Reassuring teachers and school staff about their health, safety and rights

Concern for the well-being of teachers, support staff and students is at the heart of decision-making. It is important to balance the desire to return to school with consideration of the risks to (and needs of) teachers, support staff and learners, so that the needs of the most vulnerable members of the school community are met.

School-level responses may include ongoing psychological and socio-emotional assessment, and support for teachers and learners. School leaders and teachers should be free to address their own needs, exercise self-care and manage their own stress. School leaders can help teachers develop stress management skills and coping mechanisms, so they can teach effectively and provide much-needed psychosocial support to learners. It is also critical to understand that schools are a workplace and that it is more vital than ever to respect the rights and conditions of the people who work there.

 “Before schools reopened, the teachers were worried about resuming work and contracting the virus, as were the parents. We had no WASH facilities, no masks and large classes. Discussions with health staff would have helped us a lot. It would also have been reassuring to have psychologists in schools for psychosocial care. In the end, we were able to obtain sufficient sanitation and masks from an international NGO, and only one grade returned to school to prepare for exams. The classes were split in two", stated a Primary school principal from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

  • Using teachers’ expertise in the new classroom environment

In most contexts, when children return to classrooms it will not be business as usual. In some cases, only some students will be present, or there will be double shifts. Lesson plans, assessment and overall curricula will be adapted, and remedial lessons will need to be developed and deployed.

School leaders need to ensure teachers are empowered to make decisions about teaching and learning. They can work with teachers to adjust curricula and assessment based on revised school calendars and instructions from central authorities. School leaders should also support teachers to reorganize classrooms to allow for accelerated learning and remedial responses, while adhering to regulations on physical distancing.

Teachers’ key role in recognizing learning gaps and formulating pedagogical responses remains critical. This is especially true for vulnerable groups, including low-income families, girls, those with special needs or disabilities, ethnic or cultural minorities and those living in remote rural areas with no access to distance education.

To manage the return to school, it is important for teachers and education support staff to receive adequate professional preparation to assume their responsibilities and meet expectations. Training, peer-to-peer learning and collaboration with other teachers, both within the school and more broadly, will be critical. Such support is particularly important where additional strain may be placed on teachers’ time if they are required to conduct both face-to-face and distance education.

Education recovery will require investments to ensure that a generation of learners is not lost. Which is why the Teacher Task Force is urgently calling for greater investment in teachers and teaching. Read the Call for Greater Investment

Download the Toolkit in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

See also the Guidelines for national authorities in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.

Photo credit: MIA Studio/Shutterstock.com

Blog
  • 18.08.2021

Voices from India and Kenya - Teachers fighting education disadvantage

Education disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis have shone the light on existing disparities separating learners between and within countries. We spoke to two teachers who supported their students and helped their communities overcome immense hardship throughout the pandemic, despite lacking necessary resources. Their stories show how teachers are at the heart of combating disadvantage and ensuring learning continuity. They also highlight the dire need for more investment in teachers and schools.

Sarita Nair teaches at Chetan Dattaji Gaikwad English Medium School and Junior College in Pune, India. Prior to the pandemic, students and teachers at her school were completely reliant on the traditional teaching and learning methods. There was limited use of digital technology by teachers due to lack of resources and no access to advanced teaching tools. Very few parents participated in student's day to day learning and were completely dependent on the school's education system.

Florence Ooyo, who teaches at Brightburn School in Nairobi, Kenya explained that before the pandemic emerged, some students already could not afford adequate materials and resources for learning, or even their school fees, leading them to stay home and disrupting their education. Some students also dealt with family conflict issues, causing them socio-emotional distress and impacting their ability to focus in class. “It makes work difficult for the teacher to complete the syllabus since at times you find a quarter of the class away from school,” Florence told us.

Coronavirus created an array of new problems for teachers and students. Joblessness affected the parents of many students at Brightburn School, causing many of them to relocate to rural areas in order to sustain their family and absenteeism surged even higher. Many families were surviving with one or two meals per day, causing children to lack the necessary nutrition to thrive in school. Uncertainty led to anxiety and trauma “What about tomorrow?” Florence wondered, “What is going to take place in the coming days? Most of the families were really affected psychologically and emotionally by this uncertainty.”

“The teachers too were affected by this uncertainty,” Florence told us. Unsure if they would get their next paycheck, many took on second jobs and tried to find additional ways to make ends meet. As many teachers did in fact lose their pay as schools closed down, Florence worked with organizations in the area to distribute food to her students and fellow teachers. She also visited students at home and provided them with the necessary tools to continue learning.

Florence emphasized the need to build a relationship with each student to understand their particular needs, help them build their self-esteem and support them socio-emotionally.

Sarita shared stories of similar challenges at her school in India:

"Fear of the disease and uncertainty gripped everyone mentally and physically. The pandemic brought new challenges for the teachers; the transition from in-person classroom teaching to virtual and to online classes and adapting to Zoom class completely presented a unique challenge. The teachers and students were majorly hit financially. Many parents lost their daily wages due to the unforeseen turn of events due to the Covid -19.”

Sarita and her fellow teachers took part in a training program to adapt to online classes. They reached out to various external organizations to raise funds and resources to support the community with necessary devices for remote learning as well as nutritional support for families struggling to make ends meet.

She also noted that, “teachers invested time and energy in communicating frequently and building relationships with the parents and children even during school vacations. This was seen as important because the school felt they were an integral part of the community they were serving and wanted to ensure they supported them in every possible way.”

“Lack of personal contact with students by the teachers, emotional turmoil due to death of relatives, no school hours, adapting to no physical activity and no social interaction... This scenario caused behavioral changes amongst the students,” she told us. To deal with this they set up daily activities that involved students’ parents, including arts and crafts, gardening, science experiments, and storytelling sessions focused on mental wellbeing. The school also found ways to celebrate local festivals from home, touring students’ homes virtually to see the way they decorate their homes and participate in the festivals.

“The idea was to keep the community together, connected and provide a sense of belonging and comfort knowing everyone was dealing with this unique situation and that we are not alone in this war against Covid-19,” Sarita explained.

When lockdown restrictions eased, teachers visited students at home to get a sense of how they and their families were coping. In addition to mobile phones and tablets, they distributed food rations to families in need. Financially secure parents lent a hand to support students and donated books through the "Parents as Partners" initiative. "We ensured that all the students continued to get education irrespective of their ability to pay their school fee," Sarita concluded.

Sarita and Florence’s stories show how teachers are at the heart of learning continuity and highlight the dire need for more investment in teachers and schools. Education systems were already in need of investment prior to the pandemic, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters much worse, jeopardizing progress and widening already large disparities between high- and low-income countries. No teacher should have to worry about whether they will receive their next paycheck. No student should have to drop out because they cannot afford tuition fees or school materials.

In sub-Saharan Africa the pupil/trained teacher ratio is close to one trained teacher per 58 pupils at primary level and approximately 43 pupils per trained teacher at secondary. Furthermore, new projections show that by 2030, countries in the region will need to recruit 15 million teachers. Florence is hoping that moving forwards, policy-makers and education stakeholders wake up to these realities: “The government needs to support us and acknowledge the effort our community schools are making.”

The International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is thus calling on national governments, the international community and education funders – both public and private – to invest in a human-centred approach to recovery by building resilient, teacher-supportive education systems that recognize the critical role teachers play in communities. This should include increasing domestic and international funding, developing holistic teacher policies that have been properly budgeted, strengthening teacher capacity and autonomy, and investing in data and information systems that improve effectiveness.

Thanks to Alokit, Dignitas and Global School Leaders for their support in contacting Sarita and Florence.


CaptionBeawar, Rajasthan, India, April 6, 2021: A teacher and students wearing protective face mask in a classroom at a school amid spike in coronavirus cases across the country. 
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Sumit Saraswat

Event
  • 22.07.2021

Crisis-Sensitive Teacher Policy and Planning in Emergency and Displacement Situations - webinar

**Watch the replay in English and French.**

UNHCR and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 are pleased to invite you to a webinar organised in the framework of the Norwegian Teacher Initiative: Strengthening Multi-Partner Cooperation to Support Teacher Policy and Improve Learning. 

The increase in crises and emergencies affecting education around the world, including the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in forced displacement, has demonstrated the need for thoughtful crisis-sensitive planning in education, including in national teacher policies. As frontline workers, teachers are best placed to support the learning and well-being of children and young people displaced by conflict or crisis and to prevent them from dropping out of school, provided that they themselves receive adequate support. Teachers can also play a key role in crisis-sensitive planning as long as they are properly trained, supported and equipped.

This webinar on Crisis-Sensitive Planning in Emergency and Displacement Situations will build on the Guidance Note on Developing a Crisis-Sensitive Teacher Policy, jointly developed by UNESCO, UNHCR, ILO, and UNICEF in 2020 under the Norwegian Teacher Initiative (NTI). It will highlight some of the key provisions needed to ensure that a teacher policy is also a crisis-sensitive policy. The webinar will also launch a consultation process to create a new module on Crisis-Sensitive Teacher Policy which will complement the Teacher Policy Development Guide developed by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030.

For more information see the concept note. To register, click here.

Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in English and French. If you have any questions about the webinar, contact berquin@unhcr.org.

Photo credit: UNHCR/Eduardo Soteras

**Watch the replay in English and French.**