Empowering Africa’s Teachers: UNESCO IICBA Celebrates World Teachers’ Day

“Just as basic education is important, higher education shapes us to become academics, professionals, and good citizens. Higher education shapes all levels of education.” With this statement, Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of UNESCO IICBA, opened the annual celebration of World Teachers’ Day (WTD) on the morning of the 5th of October, 2017. This event was held in the UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office in the form of an informative and productive meeting which centered on teacher quality and motivation. Present in this meeting were Madame Assibi Napoe, Chief Coordinator at Education International (EI) Africa Region, Mr. Yohannes Benti, President of Ethiopia Teachers Association, Mr. Lawalley Cole, Coordinator of the Working Group on Communication for Education and Development, ADEA, Dr. Callistus Ogo, Representative of AUC, Ms. Aukje Te Kaat, Research Manager for Aflatoun International, Mr. Demissew Lemma, Education Officer for the UNESCO Addis Ababa Liaison Office, Mr. Virgilio Juvane, Programme Coordinator for UNESCO IICBA and other IICBA staff.

This year, the theme for WTD is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”. This highlights the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, which complements the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. IICBA has been tackling teacher issues through teacher policy development and works with global, regional and national teachers’ unions. Taking this opportunity, Mr. Omar Diop, Senior Programme Specialist and Dr. Binyam Sisay, Programme Officer presented IICBA’s studies and work in the Teacher Motivation and Support Framework. This well-informed presentation generated passionate comments and thoughtful debates from meeting participant. All participants agreed that it is impossible to empower teachers without proper knowledge, skills, and training.

In closing, Dr. Yokozeki affirmed that it is possible for teachers’ unions and the government to work together for common goals. Teachers used to be respected in the community, but now the socio-economic status of teachers is eroding. These intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate the teaching force are interlinked. We must also remember that it is not just the tangible rewards that teachers receive, it is the visible impact they have on their students and the recognition that comes with it that keeps them going. All of this starts with proper training. The countries that perform the best on PISA are the ones where the best students become teachers. As Dr. Yokozeki pointed out, “It is a virtuous cycle.”

Teacher’s entry level is at the university. This is the direction in which ministries of education and policy-makers should head. Moving forward, IICBA will continue to carry on policy dialogues along with AU, EI and other partners.