It is estimated that almost 69 million teachers need to be recruited around the world by 2030 if international pledges on education are to be met, warns UNESCO. African countries face the largest gaps in staffing levels and the continent accounts for nearly two-thirds of the teachers estimated to be needed globally by 2030. Addressing the problem of who will educate the continent’s fast-growing young population is a matter of urgency. Alongside the concerning trend of teacher shortages in Africa is the problem of quality of education and teaching on the continent, which has caused millions to be sold short by the lack of adequate teacher training.
In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, teachers are faced with very high teacher-to-pupil/student ratio, limited teaching resources and poor school infrastructure. At the same time they are expected to deliver high quality education meeting the international standards. However, the effort the teachers are making is going a long mile in providing education in many deprived communities in Africa. Teachers with little or no training are coming in to cover the shortage of trained teachers as the national governments are failing to meet the demand of teachers in their countries. Their contribution is worth recognizing as the governments are reminded of the need to deliver on SDG 4.
Indeed, across Africa, there continues to be huge disparities between rural and urban education, with evidence continuing to show that primary school enrolment rates in rural areas severely lag behind urban rates in most developing countries. Children, and particularly young girls, in these areas suffer worse learning outcomes and completion rates than their peers in urban areas. Factors that contribute to this include low teacher quality, high pupil-to-teach ratios, teacher retention and teacher absenteeism.
But why? A major contributing factor is that the majority of teachers prefer to teach in urban areas. This leads to rural schools often recruiting less experienced teachers because those with better qualifications are more likely to fill the highly sought-after jobs in urban areas. This is coupled with difficulties presented by periods of absenteeism, which is far more common in rural schools where teachers take longer periods of time off to see doctors, families and to attend training. Teachers working in rural areas also face longer walks to school from their communities which results in shorter teaching hours. The remoteness of these schools also results in accountability levels being far lower than acceptable as inspectors and government officials rarely make trips to ensure standards are being met. The result is a harmful erosion of hours of teaching received by children and a collapse in standards of education.
Humana People to People has been tackling the rural teacher challenge head on for many years. Our unique approach has seen 39,000 graduates globally take up and retain positions mostly in rural communities. The teacher training colleges in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Congo, Guinea Bissau, Zambia and India go beyond traditional academic training with a focus on a practical and holistic education. Our guiding principle is to see education as both building knowledge and promoting citizenship, as education is an integral part of community development with schools and teachers playing a major role in the rural communities. Our graduates become community teachers who are equipped with not only the skills to teach academic subjects, but the practical knowledge of how to build latrines, wells and houses.
To prepare them for the realities of rural life, our trainees are taken out to live in and learn from the communities, to familiarise them with their future roles and ensure the communities are actively engaged in and aware of the importance of education. Over the years we have found that this holistic and unique approach to teacher training has instilled a sense of pride in our teachers, resulted in a decline in absenteeism and improved educations systems in the communities in which the graduates have served.
On World Teachers’ Day Humana People to People would like to celebrate the 39,000 graduates who have trained with us and the 11,600 trainees currently completing their studies at our colleges. In 2018 and beyond we will collectively continue to fight for the many children globally who still do not have access to quality teachers.