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28.05.2020 Education

2.7 Million Untrained Teachers In Sub-Saharan Africa Impacted By COVID-19—New UNESCO Data

...As Varkey Foundation Launches Nine Teacher Task Forces To Tackle Coronavirus Education Challenges
2.7 Million Untrained Teachers In Sub-Saharan Africa Impacted By COVID-19—New UNESCO Data
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Peter Tabichi joined the TEACHERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! summit, where nine task forces were launched to give thousands of teachers from every corner of the world a voice at the top table for the first time

New data released today by UNESCO's Teacher Task Force show that in sub-Saharan Africa nearly half (42% or 2.7 million) of all the 6.4 million primary and secondary teachers impacted by coronavirus school closures are untrained. This is only exacerbating the impact of the crisis as teachers are forced to adapt to remote learning. This data was unveiled for the first time at TEACHERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! – a virtual summit held by the Varkey Foundation as a member of UNESCO's Global Education Coalition to give thousands of teachers across the world a voice at the top table for the first time.

Globally, 9.1 million teachers across the world who have been impacted by coronavirus school closures (out of 63 million affected teachers in total) are untrained.

Meanwhile, data released by UNESCO's Teacher Task Force, on the basis of data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the International Telecommunication Union, show 706 million of the world's 1.75 billion learners lack internet access.

The data revealing the scale of the educational challenge posed by COVID-19 was discussed at the TEACHERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! summit on coronavirus and the future of education.

The summit - which was opened by Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, and also addressed by Global Teacher Prize 2019 winner Peter Tabichi - saw the launch of nine teacher task forces on coronavirus and the future of education to be coordinated in collaboration with UNESCO's Teacher Task Force. These nine task forces will lend governments and international bodies the expertise and varied perspectives of teachers from every continent on key policies such as providing reliable internet access for all, solutions to keep children learning where there is no internet, and a safe environment for teachers and students to return to when schools reopen.

UNESCO's Teacher Task Force also presented teachers at the summit a draft toolkit with practical tips and checklists for school leaders to ensure they are supported and protected as schools re-open. Participants were able to discuss the toolkit and provide feedback to help improve this important international tool before it is released.

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, said:

“It is vital that we put the teacher voice at the heart of our mission to champion inclusive learning opportunities for children and young people all over the world during this sudden and unprecedented disruption to global education.

“I welcome the nine new teacher task forces, established by the Varkey Foundation and coordinated in collaboration with UNESCO's Teacher Task Force, to help discuss the key educational issues of our time from teacher training to providing reliable internet access for all and solutions to keep students learning where internet access is unavailable.

“The combined knowledge and experience of these teachers in tackling a multitude of novel educational challenges from the front line will help the international community answer the crucial questions that will shape the future of education in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Peter Tabichi, Global Teacher Prize 2019 winner, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic is a serious challenge to education globally, especially in parts of the world like Africa where there is a large digital divide.

“We urgently need to expand internet access and find remote learning solutions where there is none. To do so it is vital that the voices of African teachers, who are shaping the future of the continent every day, are heard at the top table.”

A task force was announced to examine each of the following nine calls to action:

1. Reliable internet access for all: The crisis has forced schools across the world to rapidly move online with little preparation, but even in developed countries only 87% of households have internet access, while in developing countries only 47% have access, leaving many behind. We must ensure the world is ready for the next crisis and push for the roll out of reliable and stable internet connections across the world as swiftly as possible.

2. Solutions to keep children learning where there is no internet: Where internet is not available in the current crisis, governments should look to find solutions to help children continue their education at home. These should prioritise quality content focused on building basic literacy and numeracy, and using the mass media broadly used by the general population.

3. No education cuts: Once the crisis is over, much of the world will find itself in a deep recession with public funds drained in response to coronavirus. Governments will be looking to balance their budgets, but rebuilding the economy and tackling the enormous challenges ahead, not least avoiding destructive political upheaval, will require a well-educated population. Education budgets must be protected and governments across the world should ensure education remains a top priority.

4. A safe environment for teachers and pupils: When and where schools reopen, with input from teachers, governments should provide a safe working and learning environment for teachers and pupils. Governments should bring in social distancing and other protective measures within schools where necessary.

5. Lost school days should not turn into a lost generation: Over 1.5 billion learners and 63 million teachers have been affected by system-wide closures in 191 countries, according to monitoring by UNESCO. When schools reopen around the world, affected school children should have every opportunity and resource to recover their lost learning from the weeks and months of disruption. That means that governments should review the current curricula, pedagogical content, and standardised testing. As part of this, promoting community cohesion should be a priority to help bring societies back together after social distancing measures introduced as a result of the pandemic.

6. Training to teach online: Teachers in many schools where online learning is an option are rapidly having to learn to teach remotely. Comprehensive training should be provided to help these teachers adapt to teaching online including in both the use of technology and effective practices to keep students engaged in their learning.

7. Training to safeguard children online: Teachers are not just educators: they provide vital pastoral care and in normal circumstances can be crucial in identifying problems children may be experiencing at home. Lockdowns in many countries can exacerbate domestic problems young people face including violence and abuse. Schools should be given the resources to provide guidance and train their teachers on how to continue to support their students with pastoral care when they are not in school. Governments should also ensure robust support networks are put in place for children who need them.

8. Nutritious free meals: For many children from low income families, school is the only place they can rely on a nutritious meal. Funding for free school meals should be protected even where schools are not open and this should be channelled into food support for those children at home who relied on free meals at school.

9. Fasttrack EdTech strategies: Most governments lack a comprehensive strategy to ensure technology assists teachers effectively and improves learning outcomes. In consultation with teachers, they should put in place EdTech strategies as soon as possible to assist learning inside and outside the classroom. It is particularly important to address this before the next crisis hits.

The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. The foundation believes nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers. They support global teaching capacity and seed excellence and innovation in the next generation of educators. They also founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world.

For further details:
The Global Education Coalition was launched by UNESCO as a multi-sector partnership to provide appropriate distance education for all learners. It seeks to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children and youth during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption. It believes that investment in remote learning should both mitigate the immediate disruption caused by COVID-19 and establish approaches to develop more open and flexible education systems for the future.

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