Over 63 million teachers – and the nearly 1.6 billion learners who depend on them – have been affected by school closures brought on by COVID-19. The education sector has been among those hardest hit by the pandemic, adding to the challenges teachers are facing.
On 5 October, UNESCO, in collaboration with Forum for Women Teachers, celebrated World Teachers Day virtually through a webinar. The event focused primarily on empowering teachers, discussing the issues and challenges they are facing, and how these can be addressed in the context of this present situation. More than 8o teachers, along with leaders of professional teacher organizations, participated in the event.
Internalizing this years’ theme “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”, the webinar focused on recognizing the role teachers play in helping to ensure the continuation of students’ learning, as well as protecting the rights of teachers during this pandemic. Teachers are working independently and collectively to create remote learning situations for students so that their education can continue. They have had to adjust or condense the curriculum and lesson plans to carry on with instruction, whether through the web, cell phone, television, or radio broadcasts, in most cases with few resources and little time to plan.
“I know there are many concerns and issues that the education sector, especially teachers, are facing due to the closure of schools. Teachers have been struggling to provide education, especially those in remote areas without access to any resources,” said Gopinath Mainali, Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. “We are happy to discuss these issues in the government and provide help and assistance to support our education sector to continue the students learning,” he added.
Balaram Timalsina, Chief of the Education Unit in UNESCO Kathmandu Office, underscored the important role of teachers in this pandemic situation to achieve SDG 4.
UNESCO is committed to support teachers and motivate them as they play a crucial role to achieving the 2030 educational goals, leaving no one behind.
The sessions also discussed how countries are planning to reopen their schools; in Nepal, there has still been no decision taken on this. The closure of schools in remote districts can lead to risks of students dropping out, and the health and wellbeing of teachers and students are also being affected.
The fear of COVID cannot stop education. Our goal will always be to provide education and not let our students be away from it. We will make every effort to support the education of the children, but we also require support to move further together.
Gita Kafle, Head Teacher in Nandi Secondary School
The event highlighted the way that teachers’ roles have been transferred from teaching in classrooms to teaching remotely. It has been a drastic change for them, and challenging too, as many-both students and teachers-do not have access to the internet or other needed resources. The webinar also raised several issues and problems the teachers are facing; and requested the Ministry to resolve these urgently.