04.10.2016 - Education Sector

Teachers working in conflict zones in Nigeria spurred on by passion

© Aisha Kadiri

“Without true passion for your work, passion to give of yourself and go out and do your best every day even in difficult circumstances, you cannot be a good teacher,” said Ms Aisha Kadiri, a master trainer working with teachers involved with internally displaced learners in parts of Nigeria where education has been disrupted by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Ms Kadiri, Dean of the School of Early Childhood Care and Primary Education, Federal College of Education, in Yola, Nigeria, spoke to UNESCO on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day. She has vast experience of working in refugee camps with primary and secondary school children and teachers often severely traumatised.

“In the work I do in the camps I have seen children who have been so affected by what they have experienced or witnessed that they are completely cut off and distracted when they are in class. They need to be brought out of their trauma with teachers trained in psychosocial skills,” said Ms Kadiri who is specialised in capacity-building of teachers/caregivers, the development of play materials and implementation of the Safe Schools Initiative. 

Teachers bring order and discipline back to their lives

“When we arrive at the camp gates they surge forward to take anything that we are bringing as school materials. Often they have been subject to a lot of violence and will be very aggressive themselves, beating each other all the time. We, as teachers, have to bring order and some discipline back to their lives. We have to teach them to sit and be patient, to pay attention. Often the security personnel they come into contact with will also have to be retrained that it is not normal to deal with children violently.

“When it comes to teachers, many of whom may be from the camps themselves and are volunteers, we have to build their capacity on how to engage the children and make learning materials from their own environment. Once the children engage and become busy they are so much easier to teach.”

Ensuring a future for children

She is clear on what motivates teachers in such insecure circumstances. Many have fled their own homes and are working without support materials and often without pay for many months.

“These teachers have seen their communities destroyed. They want to ensure that these children do not have their futures also destroyed. We can offer them training to help them remain committed to seeing that the lives of these children do not stop.”

Ms Kadiri, a speaker at the recent UNESCO International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education, says much has been done by the government to improve safety but teaching remains an unsafe profession.

“Sporadic attacks are carried out to build fear in people’s minds and create havoc. Teachers in particular can feel menaced and it is made worse by the fact that you don’t always know who your enemy is. It may be your neighbour who has been brainwashed.”

She said support, and occasions like World Teachers’ Day, were important to inspire teachers to continue.

“Teaching has to come from the heart,” said Ms Kadiri. “It often involves sacrifice. As soon as you lose your passion and start to question everything it is much more difficult to do your best job. I understand motivation from my own circumstance. When I was invited to speak at the UNESCO conference I was not expecting it. But I felt that someone, somewhere in the world had recognized my work and it made it easier to carry on.”

This year UNESCO marks WTD on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.  This year’s theme, Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status, embodies the principles of the Recommendation while highlighting  the need to support teachers to achieve the Global Education 2030 Agenda.

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