Chad: the SET supporting teachers during the COVID-19 crisis
Throughout the crisis, the Chad Teachers Union (SET, Syndicat des Enseignants du Tchad) has focused on listening to and supporting teachers. To this aim, the union carried out a large-scale survey to better understand the impact of the pandemic on teachers and to assess the effectiveness of distance learning.
The impact of the crisis on education in Chad
Since March 2020, the pandemic has created a severe interruption in all economic, political, social, commercial, cultural and sporting activities in Chad. The education system was hit particularly hard. School and university closures suddenly separated teachers from their pupils and students. Some teachers were infected and lost their lives. Support for students was very limited. The government took the initiative to organise distance learning, however, the system’s shortcomings led to the exclusion of the majority of learners.
After three months of school and university closures, the government decided to reopen exam classes without carrying out an in-depth analysis of the impacts of the pandemic on education personnel nor on the effectiveness of distance learning. The conditions requested by social partners for restarting lessons were not entirely respected, particularly hand washing facilities, disinfecting classrooms and the distribution of facemasks.
The SET was also directly affected by the crisis. A number of members stopped paying their statutory contributions, awareness-raising and mobilisation activities were suspended, Executive Board members were unable to travel to provinces to identify problems encountered by their local bodies, the recruitment campaign for new members was halted due to a lack of material and financial means, etc.
SET initiatives supporting teachers
Concerned about the situation, the SET decided to use the Education International solidarity fund to carry out a survey of the impact of COVID-19 on personnel in the education sector in the most affected provinces. The survey also looked at the weaknesses of distance learning in order to stress the importance of face-to-face teaching. To this aim, questionnaires were sent to SET representatives in Ndjamena, Mongo, Bol, Sarh, Doba and Moundou.
At the same time, in order to continue to gain strength, the SET also organised training sessions for local representatives on human and trade union rights. Most of these members had been recently elected during the 5th Congress (May 2019). The training consisted of a three-day workshop in Ndjamena, with 35 participants from 16 of the 23 provinces of Chad. The aim was to better equip activists to recruit new members.
Survey highlights limitations of distance education
1508 people responded to the questionnaire, 1290 men and 218 women.
Respondents welcomed the government initiative on distance learning to ensure the continuity of teaching in Chad, whilst pointing out its limitations and numerous shortcomings:
- a lack of electricity in some provinces, frequent sudden power cuts in large cities
- neither state media (radio and television) nor community and private radio stations cover the entire country
- most students’ parents do not have the means to purchase electronic devices for their children (phones or computers) for online learning and are even less likely to have a television or even a radio for distance education
- teachers responsible for distance learning are neither properly trained nor do they have the necessary materials to provide quality distance education.
For all these reasons, 64% of teachers said their students had not been able to benefit from distance learning, and 96% of teachers stated that distance learning had not achieved its goal.
SET proposals to respond to the crisis
Based on consultations, the SET submitted the following requests to the government to counter the effects of the pandemic:
- Build school infrastructure and ensure it is equipped to allow for social distancing;
- Equip school and university establishments with hygiene kits for hand washing and provide personal protective equipment for teachers and students;
- Train teachers at all levels to provide distance or online learning;
- Recruit new teachers at preschool, primary, secondary, vocational and technical levels;
- Set up community and educational radio stations in all provinces in Chad.
The SET also proposed:
- An educational radio station to be created to raise activists’ awareness about the pandemic and other trade union activities;
- Partnerships with existing community radio stations in order to obtain slots for educational programmes.