Teacher unionists from around the world have called for renewed investment in education and teachers to ensure Africa’s future and to meet Education For All commitments on the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.
Participants from 27 countries in Africa and elsewhere joined the International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All (EFA) conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 19-20 January, under the theme of ‘Collaborative Action to Address the Teacher Gap.’ They addressed pressing concerns including the issue of teacher shortfalls on the continent; shared good practice and made recommendations on how to address the funding, policy, and capacity gaps in the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers to achieve EFA by 2015.
The event was opened and closed by Kenya’s Minister of Education, Prof. Sam K. Ongeri, who shared his hopes for the teachers’ situation in Kenya since the Teaching Service Commission of Kenya. The Commission manages recruitment and retention of teachers and became a constitutional body to handle teachers’ matters with direct funding from the Ministry of Finance. According to Prof. Ongeri the result of this change has been the removal of a reliance on the Ministry of Education, which in most cases has financial caps preventing it from funding teachers’ issues directly. Prof. Ongeri encouraged other countries to follow Kenya’s lead.
The Minister also informed participants how the Kenyan government had managed to reduce the teacher gap from 62,000 to 42,000 professionals. This gap was projected t be reduced by a further 30,000 by the end of the year.
However, the Acting Deputy Secretary General of EI’s affiliate member, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Xavier Nyamu, indicated that unions were unhappy with the development as the teacher gap was being filled with contractual teachers. In 2010, the Kenyan government recruited 18,000 contractual teachers.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) President, Akelo M. T. Misori, added: “We hope the new recruitments will not be on contract as it was the case in 2010.”
Other issues discussed at the conference included contractual teachers. The recruitment of less qualified teaching personnel on the basis of short-term contracts was discouraged by participants.
EI’s Education and Employment Coordinator, Dennis Sinyolo, stressed the need to invest in qualified and motivated teachers in order to improve the quality of education in Africa and other parts of the world. He shared research findings from studies undertaken by EI and experiences from the Quality Educators for All programme initiated by EI and Oxfam Novib.
Early childhood education was also raised as a key issue that needed more attention and investment since it would eventually scale down costs at higher levels.
Participants strongly advocated that education funding should be considered as an investment, rather than as an expense, in a country’s future.