» UNESCO findings are cornerstone of Addis conference on contract teachers
04.07.2016 - Education Sector

UNESCO findings are cornerstone of Addis conference on contract teachers

© Shehnilla Mohamed

A conference to examine the increasing use of contract teachers in sub-Saharan Africa brought together more than 100 participants around the findings of a UNESCO review.

The International Conference on the Review of the Use of Contract Teachers in Addis Ababa was organized by the UNESCO International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (TTF) and shared the preliminary findings of the review carried out in 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as policies and practices from around the world.

Worldwide the number of out-of-school children has fallen by 50 per cent leading to a teacher gap which is often filled by recruiting contract teachers i.e. those who work outside an employment relationship often with little training and no other benefits like paid leave, pension or health insurance.

Addressing the conference, which took place from June 20 to 24, 2016,  Ethiopia’s Minister of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Mr Teshome Lemma said: “It is clear that both the quality and quantity of teachers needs to be dealt with. This study raises important issues and provides the opportunity to share information and find solutions.”

Teachers suffer low social status

He stressed the importance of building more high quality teacher training colleges and providing teachers with incentives such as open-ended contracts, skills enhancement and career development opportunities.

Kishore Singh, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education said the review was timely. “Teachers do not enjoy social esteem. Every country that I visit I find that the teaching profession is often the least sought after,” he said.

The situation was often worse in private schools. “Many under-qualified and under-paid teachers are employed by low fee private schools which are run by small and large enterprises where teachers do not benefit from in-service training for personal development,” said Mr Singh

Dr Edem Adubra, UNESCO Chief of the Section for Teacher Development and Head of the Secretariat of the TTF said: “One of the main functions of the taskforce is to enable the key stakeholders to communicate and work together more effectively to tackle the challenges in delivering quality education.”

Difficult to attract the best candidates

Review coordinator Mr Martial Dembele said one of the most disturbing findings was the belief that the image of the teaching profession had been severely damaged by this practice.

“It’s a vicious cycle. Everyone agrees that teachers are important for student learning and that we need to attract highly capable individuals but because the profession does not have the social standing it once did, we are not attracting the best candidates anymore,” he said.

He said one of the people he had interviewed for the review from the Gambia had noted: “You hardly hear of an unqualified doctor or lawyer, so why do you hear of unqualified teachers?”

The conference ended with a commitment by delegates to use the preliminary findings on pre-service and in-service teacher training, financing, recruitment and deployment of teachers, performance evaluation, motivation and social dialogue on teachers and teaching to see how they can influence change with their governments. The final report from the review is due to be released early next year.  

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