UNESCO Organizes Second Virtual Knowledge Sharing Webinar on Teacher Issues in Africa

UNESCO is supporting countries in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact of school closures, and have been working on priorities in regions for teachers and teaching for years. To respond to the crisis, on April 15 2020, IICBA and Section of Teacher Education and development (TED) in UNESCO HQ co-organized the first virtual knowledge sharing webinar on teacher issues in Africa. The aims were to brainstorm concrete actions and tangible products to meet the needs of member states in Sub-Saharan Africa, addressing the central role of teachers in ensuring continuity, accessibility, quality and equity and learning during and after the crisis.

As a follow-up to the first session, IICBA and TED in UNESCO HQ co-organized the second webinar on teachers and school reopening. It focused on key issues for preparing for school reopening by teachers, and potential challenges to be faced. It aimed to enable participants who are members of the “community of practice” to take ownership of the various tools developed by UNESCO to assist countries in reopening schools. Moreover, the webinar provided a platform to exchange best practices and strategies as well as any complementary tools that we could develop to facilitate implementations. Over 40 colleagues across regions participated in the session. The session was moderated by Dr. Binyam Sisay, Programme Officer, IICBA.

To start with, Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director, IICBA, gave the welcoming remarks, which were followed by the introduction to the themes by Ms. Valérie Djioze-Gallet, TED in UNESCO HQ. Thereafter, Dr. Shalini Desai MD, Infodemics Pillar WHO Health Emergencies, presented the basic epidemiology of COVID-19, transmission, public health measures, testing, and relevant studies.

Following that, UNESCO colleagues introduced two contributions for school reopening. Firstly, the Framework for School Reopening is a collaborative work of UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, and World Food Program, which provides broad guidelines to support decision makers on when and how to reopen schools. Dr. Sonia Guerriero, UNESCO HQ, gave an overview of the framework and Mr. David Bazongo, UNESCO Dakar and Burkina Faso National Teachers’ Institute, demonstrated implementations on the ground.

In addition, Mr. Peter Wallet from Teacher Task Force (TTF) presented the other guideline, Supporting Teachers in Back-to-School Efforts - Guidance for Policy-makers published by TTF which focuses on teachers’ roles in school opening, and is complementary to the previous guideline. Mr. Wallet also highlighted that this tool would also be useful for the planning process and is not limited to school reopening. Other complementary tools such as publications, guides and strategies were presented as well.

In the concluding discussion, participants reflected that better data collection of teachers’ issues is much needed to ensure that the tools provided are fully implemented by governments and reach to all teachers. In addition, the variety of contexts in Africa should be carefully considered in terms of the content of the guidelines provided and implementations of school reopening. Additionally, IICBA fully supports national planning and implementation processes for a smooth school reopening.