“Education leaders must have the will to release leadership to the teachers, the parents and students”, Andy Hargreaves.
The world is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). Before this year started, we were reporting more than 260 million children out of school and more than 600 million in school who are not learning the basics or the requisite skills. These statistics have greatly changed as a result of the COVID 19 Pandemic. Teacher quality is the most important determinant of learning results at the school level, but in many countries, teachers are in short supply, isolated, and not supported to provide effective teaching and learning especially during these unprecedented times. In this context, achieving inclusive, equitable and quality education for all requires urgent actionto harness the broader education workforce, i.e. teachers and all the other education support professionals. The education workforce is an education system’s biggest investment and one of its greatest levers for change.
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That said, though teachers are critical to meet SDG 4, they cannot work alone. It takes a team/whole village and courage to educate a child – teachers need leadership and support to be effective and to help learners with the greatest needs. The education workforce must evolve to keep pace with the rapidly changing world and embrace the new opportunities these changes bring.
Leadership practices have changed considerably because of COVID19. Consequently, school leadership has shifted on its axis and is unlikely to return to ‘normal’ anytime soon, if ever at all.During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers stepped up innovating and mobilizing the community to ensure learning continues. In my country, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) has been very instrumental in coordinating the participation of all the key stakeholders in the policy processes related to the COVID 19 response and preparedness, including sustained social dialogue.
During this pandemic, we have witnessed teachers’ leadership struggling with parents and communities’ unpreparedness for home learning, with distance andinterrupted learning, unequal access to digital learning tools,social isolation, high economic costs, in addition to dealing with uncertainty and building resilience. Thesehave been great examples of teacher leadership. Through our various organisations and unions, we, teachers, are at the heart of the process that is needed to rethink new visions and directions for our schools, in particular to ensure minimum interruption to teaching and Learning during this pandemic.
I would therefore urge all policymakers, development partners, implementing organisations, CSOs and other stakeholders to empower, support and engage with teachers, in order to build innovative educational leadership programs that can breed positive, transformative change within schools and districts during and beyond the COVID pandemic. Support measures should be in place to lead the transformation of education systems into equitable and inclusive learning systems for all children.System leaders should be empowered to build networks of schools, professionals, and cross-sectoral partnerships that use data and evidence to transform education systems into learning systems that are adaptable to change.
Accordingly, teachers through their organisations in Africa are determined that whatever happens, whatever the cost, whatever the scale of the challenge, they will continue to do everything in their power to safeguard the learning of all young people. They must therefore be accorded the necessary support.