By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, United States of America, 4 October 2012 – 5 October is World Teachers’ Day. Each year, education and development organizations worldwide mobilize to honour the teaching profession and its essential role in providing quality education for future generations.
Taking a stand
This year’s motto, ‘Take a stand for teachers’, calls on all policy-makers, stakeholders, communities and each and every one of us to show our support for teachers, especially considering that the current education system suffers from a shortage of 1.7 million teachers worldwide. Overcoming this deficiency is essential to realizing the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015.
Education First, the new global education initiative launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 26 September 2012, stresses the importance of hiring and training more teachers, providing them with opportunities for professional development and improving teachers’ earnings and their social status.
To commemorate World Teachers’ Day and discuss the role of teachers as part of the Education First agenda, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with General Secretary of the Ugandan National Teacher’s Union Teopista Birungi Mayanja and youth activist Charles Young from Jamaica. Both participated in an Education First panel discussion held at United Nations New York headquarters on 26 September.
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Teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions
According to Ms. Mayanja, the education system in Uganda has gone through major changes over the past 15 years. With the introduction of universal primary education in 1997, the number of children enrolled in school tripled. But increased enrolment was not accompanied by an increase in resources allocated to education.
In Ms. Mayanja’s eyes, the Education First initiative is all about teachers. “Unless we train, recruit and deploy more teachers, the teacher-pupil ratio will not be reduced, and so the learning won’t take place,” she said.
For Mr. Young, teaching is one of the most important professions in every country because teachers train doctors, lawyers – and everyone else. Sharing his experience, he said that his Grade 1 and Grade 5 teachers have had a great impact on his life. They provided extracurricular classes for him and motivated him to work harder.
Mr. Young also said that he is very excited about the Education First initiative: “I honestly believe that we have a good thing going on here…Young people are saying: this is what is happening in the world, and we want people to hear us because some people are not being heard, and through the technology, which is the thing for our generation, we can make children be heard.”
Ms. Mayanja stressed the importance of understanding that, when we talk about teachers, we are, in fact, talking about children: “It is all about children because teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions.”