World Teachers’ Day: The Teachers We Need to Build Foundations for Lifelong Learning
By: Paul Abok, Assistant Advocacy and Communications Officer, PAL Network
“…in no location does the percentage of children in grades 4-6 reaching this proficiency level exceed 53%.”
As we stand on the cusp of another World Teachers Day, the theme resonates louder than ever: “The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage.” Nowhere is this reality more pressing than in the Global South, where the seeds of learning struggle to take root due to a shortage of educators equipped to nurture them.
In the vast landscape of education, the PAL Network’s vision stands out—a world where every child has a foundation for lifelong learning. However, this vision encounters a formidable challenge: the stark reality that children are entering classrooms but not truly learning. The numbers of children grappling with foundational literacy and numeracy skills in the Global South paint a concerning picture. Despite attending regular school programs, these children find themselves struggling with basic reading and math in advanced grades.
The 2022 ICAN report by the PAL Network unfolds the realities of these struggles on foundational literacy and numeracy in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report states that curriculum expectations for reading proficiency vary by country, with objectives set at grade 2 in Mozambique and Nigeria and grade 3 in Kenya. However, a notable finding across all locations is that a substantial proportion of children, even in grades 4-6 or 7-8, struggle with reading at the story level. Notably, in no location does the percentage of children in grades 4-6 reaching this proficiency level exceed 53%. This stark contrast poses a significant challenge to these children’s academic journey, leading to self-doubt and a hindrance to their passion for learning.
The root of the matter lies in the need for teachers trained to deliver foundational learning concepts effectively. On this World Teachers Day, it’s important to recognize the pivotal role of educators in setting the foundation for a child’s learning journey, especially in the Global South, where access to education is often a challenge. Therefore, when these children finally step into classrooms, it ought to count for something. This year’s theme acts as a clarion call, urging us to address the need for properly trained teachers who can guide children through these foundational concepts, enabling them to thrive in their academic journey and, consequently, in life.
The ‘My Village’ pilot project by PAL Network is currently trialling innovative learning interventions in communities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Nepal. In this pilot, youth volunteers in Kenya and Nepal undergo training in foundational learning pedagogies to serve as facilitators in the project. In Tanzania, ‘My Village’ is being implemented by teachers trained on the same concepts. These dedicated individuals, referred to as ‘My Village Champions,’ often with secondary education as their highest qualification, play a pivotal role in leading community engagements and implementing ‘My Village’ initiatives in their respective communities. Their commitment to volunteering and helping children gain basic reading and math skills showcases the power of community-driven education initiatives as part of the solution to the teacher shortage.
As we celebrate teachers worldwide, we carry forward awareness of the pivotal role of teachers and teaching volunteers in laying the groundwork for a child’s educational journey. Let’s heed the call to ‘The teachers we need for the education we want,’ ensuring that every child, especially in the Global South, has access to educators capable of instilling the joy of learning and unlocking the doors to a brighter future. It’s these teachers, equipped to nurture the seeds of learning, who hold the key to a more equitable and empowered world.