» Motivation is critically important, says trainer of teachers in refugee situations
30.09.2016 - Education Sector

Motivation is critically important, says trainer of teachers in refugee situations


Dr Yosa Wawa, Professor of History at the College of Education, University of Juba, South Sudan spoke to UNESCO on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, 2016 about motivation in extreme teaching conditions.

“In my experience in refugee camps in Uganda and schools in South Sudan, I have found that the best teachers, the ones who are the most motivated, are those who truly feel they are serving their people. And this type of teacher flourishes yet more with scholarships and quality training,” said Dr Wawa, a teacher and teacher educator who has devoted much of his life to promoting safety and protection of schools in South Sudan and Uganda.

“We must never forget that refugees can just as easily be teachers or students and that most will have been forced to move as a result of violence and may have suffered violence personally. These consequences have to be taken into account both in teacher training and in the learning process for students.

“Children pose particular challenges because they may be orphans and so traumatised as a result of that or of other violent occurrences that they are unable to learn without support. Often if they have been victims of violence they may also exhibit violent behaviour themselves. Properly trained and motivated teachers move quickly to handle such situations and take on a counselling role.”

Dr Wawa, who is a member of the Curriculum Committee of the Republic of South Sudan, said teachers were motivated by a range of reasons and in many different ways.

“For some it will be monetary reward while some will be moved more by a strong impulse to help their own people, others to bring about greater societal change,” he said.

Another factor can be the involvement and engagement of parents in their children’s’ schooling.

Education as a liberating factor

“When refugees arrive in Uganda many are cattle herders who are obliged to go to school for the first time. For them, and in particular for women, education is a supremely important liberating factor. Teachers must also be aware of how education affects women’s lives. I have personal experience of working with parents who wanted to marry off their girl children too early. They feared losing their only wealth, their cattle. I told them if they let the girl finish her education they will be buying cows every year.”

Dr Wawa was a guest speaker at the recent UNESCO International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education co-organized with the Mahatma Gandhi institute for Peace and Sustainable Development held in New Delhi from September 19-20 where he spoke on the role of teachers in curtailing violent extremism.

He said that in the case of South Sudan, a relatively new country, violent conflict was often tribal.

“In these cases teachers must be equipped with curriculum which handle potentially controversial subjects like history or geography with an emphasis on citizenship that is greater than tribal identity. Students must learn that instead of saying ‘I am from this tribe. This is my country’ they can instead say ‘We are all from this country.’”

World Teachers’ Day will be celebrated at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris and around the world on October 5 under the theme “Valuing teachers, Improving their Status” and will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

The event in Paris will include panel discussions, a poster exhibition and a ceremony to award the laureates of the UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Distinguished Academic Performance which this year go to See Beyond Borders, Cambodia, and the University of Malaya (Malaysia).


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